Council rent arrears grow as welfare reforms affect more tenants in Brighton and Hove

The growing number of Brighton and Hove council tenants in receipt of universal credit owe an increasing amount of rent.

The total outstanding sum has almost trebled in a year from £160,000 owed by 498 tenants to £470,000 owed by 1,005 tenants.

At the end of March the money accounted for 42 per cent of all rent owed to Brighton and Hove City Council, up from 23 per cent a year earlier.

Tenants subject to the benefit cap also rising arrears, with the total amount doubling over the past year.

The £20,000 cap on welfare benefits affects 43 tenants, down from 47 a year ago. But in total they owe £10,000 up from £5,000 a year ago.

The benefit cap applies to a number of benefits including income support, housing benefit, jobseeker’s allowance, child tax credits and bereavement allowance.

The arrears figures were published in the council’s latest Housing Management Performance Report, to be presented to housing management panels across Brighton and Hove next week. The panels are made up tenants, leaseholders and councillors.

The report also said that the number of council tenants affected by the spare room subsidy, or bedroom tax, had fallen from 580 to 537.

But the rent owed by those tenants had risen from £45,000 to £79,000 in the past financial year.

The council is working with Money Advice Plus to try to help those affected by the changes.

Despite the impact of benefit reforms the council collected £49.9 million in rent out of the £51 million due.

The council aims to collect at least 98 per cent of rents due but just missed the target in the 2018-19 financial year, having collected 97.81 per cent.

The report said: “Although the target has been narrowly missed, performance has held up well in light of the increasing challenge posed by the full roll-out of universal credit.”

There are currently two vacancies in the council’s income management team.

The council hopes that a recruitment drive to fill these vacancies will help the team deal with the impact of universal credit.

In the past year two households have been evicted and 456 have been served notice by the council.

In the previous year – 2017-18 – two households were evicted and 635 were served notice.

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