Pursuit of targets could lead to home evictions in Barking and Dagenham, cabinet member warns

Vulnerable tenants could lose their homes if the council continues to pursue stringent rent collection targets, a cabinet member warned.

Cllr Phil Waker spoke out after figures obtained by the Post showed the number of evictions from council homes had increased by a third from 89 in 2010/11 to 119 in 2011/12.

Cllr Waker, the cabinet member for housing, warned that attempts to collect arrears could lead to more evictions and, in the long run, increase the amount they need to write off in uncollected rent.

“The danger we’re having is a rash of evictions and a rash of write-offs,” he told the meeting at Dagenham Civic Centre last Tuesday.

“We need to flag it up and look at that.”

Chief executive Stella Manzie told the cabinet the joint venture between Agilisys and the council called Elevate had been created precisely to make progress on collection targets, while housing director Darren Henaghan, added that the correct procedures had been pursued to recover debt.

“I can assure members of the cabinet that as far as I am aware all the processes are being followed,” he said.

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A cabinet report on rent collections showed Elevate collected �92.8million in council rents, or 97 per cent of what was owed – above the 95 per cent target – in the third quarter of 2011/12.

The document also shows the council partner sends text messages in addition to standard rent arrears letters and has extra resources to take tenants to court to obtain possession orders when rent debt is high.

A council spokesman told the Post: “We have a published policy on managing tenant arrears and collection of debt, which seeks to provide the right balance between supporting tenants who are having difficulty paying their rent because of hardship, and tackling those that can pay but choose not to. When all efforts to collect the rent owed or to make arrangements for payment with the tenant have failed the council as landlord will seek eviction through the courts.”