The Housing and Property Committee met and discussed the impact that the ‘cost of living’ crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic has had on tenants experiencing rent arrears.
All Highland Council tenants sign a Scottish Secure Tenancy lease at the start of their tenancy which places a legal duty on them to pay their rent.
However, many tenants are experiencing difficulties in paying rent or accessing welfare benefits and are falling into rent arrears.
Housing and Property Committee Chair, Cllr Glynis Sinclair said:
“The Highland Council Housing Service works closely with the Welfare Support Team to ensure early intervention and inform tenants of rent arrears as soon as they arise.
“Due to the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’, and the impact of the pandemic and other global factors, many tenants are finding themselves in rent arrears for the very first time and require early intervention to guide them through the process and to provide appropriate welfare support to each individual.”
Cllr Glynis Sinclair added:
“Local Housing Officers carry out a crucial role and ongoing training to ensure they are able to assist tenants with up to date information and can refer people to existing and new grant funding, direct tenants to support agencies available that can help ensure they are receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled and can assist with debt and personal budgeting issues.
“We encourage anyone experiencing financial difficulty and/or rent arrears to get in touch with your Local Housing Officer and/or Welfare Support to ensure that all entitled financial support and energy saving measures are in place.”
The Rent Arrears Management Policy updated in January 2020, aims to be “firm but fair” and considers all tenants in arrears as vulnerable and in need of support.
The Council’s policy also states that legal action is a last resort.
An additional budget of £3.429m was agreed at the full Highland Council meeting on 30 June 2022 to provide cost of living support for our vulnerable and low income households.
£160k of additional support (agreed at September Housing and Property Committee) to assist tenants directly with specialist, independent energy advice and access to financial support will be provided by AliEnergy, who are currently recruiting for energy advisors in Highland and intend to roll out their services to tenants later this month.
If you or anyone you know are struggling to keep up with Council tenant rent payments, please make contact with your Local Housing Officer or contact the Welfare Support Team via the Council website
Anyone worrying about the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’, should know that support is available.
Help and advice across Highland can be found in the ‘worrying about money’ leaflet available here