‘Black hole of rent arrears’

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A GROWING black hole in rent arrears across the Kingdom is causing friction between tenants and ‘heavy handed’ council officers.

That’s the claim by anti-bedroom tax campaigners, who reveal only 15 per cent of those affected by the new tax are receiving help from the local authority.

Davie Nelson, of Auchmuty Tenants Association, said: “So far Fife Council has paid out £220,000 from a discretionary housing payment fund of £1.2m because it is means-testing people’s benefits,- which it shouldn’t be - and knocking too many people back. Of 6,500 tenants only 1800 have applied and, of those, 800 have been rejected.

“Those who aren’t coming forward fear that having their benefits mean-tested would result in an eviction.”

Mr Nelson told the Gazette Fife Council would not disclose the total rent arrears due, but he said: “I know the figure is huge.”

As a result tenants, many of whom had never owned a penny rent in their lives, were often being threatened with court action and unreasonable expectations of austerity.

“They say you are not allowed to go to the cinema, you are not allowed to have cable TV,” said Mr Nelson. “They want you to sit and look at the four walls.”

Fife Council stressed its staff would work with people in rent arrears to help reach a reasonable agreement to repay rent due.

Louise Sutherland, service manager, said: “We are adding to our collection team to make sure advice and support are given at as early a stage as possible. We know there are not enough smaller properties for everyone who might want to move, but for anyone who does find a suitable move we are doing what we can to help.“

She added: “No-one should be worrying alone about the situation, and I would urge anyone who has heard from us about their arrears to get in touch for help.”