RENT arrears on council houses in Hull topped the £2m mark for the first time last year.
Annual figures show 8,609 households across Hull were in arrears at the end of last September.
They represented just over one in three council households.
In September 2006 rent arrears stood at just £1.4m and has risen to a staggering £2m in recent times. The rent arrears continues to rise steadly and the latest figures have sparked renewed fears that more people are struggling with debt problems than ever before.
Two years ago the Government introduced a tax which forced council tenants to pay extra towards their rent. ” The bedroom tax” began and the rent arrears increased almost immediatley.
As a result of welfare reforms, around 20,000 people who were prvusly exempt from paying council tax are now having to pay 20 per cent of the charge
In the report, the city council’s neighbourhoods and housing manager Laura Carr said: “The majority of tenants in arrears – 88 per cent – owe seven weeks rent or less.
“Less than 1 per cent of tenants who are in arrears have been so for more than 26 weeks at the end of September.”
Although overall rent arrears are increasing year-on-year, she said the issue only accounted for a small proportion of the people who declared themselves at risk of becoming homeless.
Figures for a three-month period between July and September show 742 people approached the council over the possibility of being made homeless.
Of those, 117 were officially accepted as being homeless.
The two main reasons given were violent breakdowns in relationships and parents no longer willing or able to accommodate their children.
Mrs Carr said the latest data from the Ministry of Justice on housing repossessions in Hull also reflected an increasing trend.
Covering both local authority and housing association tenants without distinguishing between the two, the figures show 281 possession orders were granted in the first nine months of last year – 18 more than the whole of 2013.
Mrs Carr said: “The majority of possession claims to the courts are from social landlords and this is a reflection of the relatively high levels of social housing in Hull and, more importantly, an outcome of the fact that private landlords find it easy to cease assured shorthold tenancies and court action is not necessary.
“Courts are much more inclined to award a suspended order to social landlords than an outright possession order.
“The effect of this is to increase rent arrears even further in some cases.”
Robert Croll, Manager of Humber Debt Solutions, said “Debt does not just go away and it is very important that you deal with it and seek advice straight away. The quicker you seek advice, the easier it will be to find a solution to the problem.
“If you are struggling with debt there are various organisations that can help you deal with it, including free advice from several organisations in Hull. You don’t need to face the problem alone, Humber Debt Solutions can give you the right advice or point you in the direction of organisations that can help you.”
UNPAID rent is often a reason why many people believe they could be made homeless.
However, figures published by Hull City Council show only nine council and other social housing tenants in Hull have actually been accepted as being homeless over the past two years after losing their home through rent arrears.
Instead, most homeless cases involved people fleeing from domestic violence or finding their parents could no longer provide them with accommodation.
The figures also show eight people were accepted as homeless after being asked to leave accommodation provided by the Home Office as part of asylum support packages.