How does arrears performance affect you and your home?
31 May 2022
What do arrears targets mean and how can they affect you?
Welcome to Behind the stats, our new blog series breaking down what our performance statistics and targets mean, and how they impact you and your home. These blogs will be written by the teams who work with these statistics, so you can find out more about the work they do as well as the relationship between our targets, your homes and the services you receive. The first blog is all about arrears targets and performance, and is written by Alyson Norris, our Out of Hours Income Officer.
What do the Income team do?
The majority of tenants pay their rent regularly and keep their accounts up to date. Occasionally, for various reasons, paying all or part of the rent isn’t possible and it’s our job in the Income Team to find out why and see how we can assist to stop any arrears getting too high.Alyson Norris, Out of Hours Income Officer
A lot of the time we can agree a payment plan or help with benefit claims. There are some times when we have to take legal action and end up in court, usually because residents are not responding to our efforts to contact them and the arrears are getting too high. To get to that stage, we have to prove to the court that we have done everything we possibly can to prevent legal action. Ultimately, this can lead to eviction in rare and extreme cases but this is very much a last resort.
If we do evict someone, this is classed as a bad debt, an amount of money that is usually unrecoverable. High arrears cases are the same as it becomes difficult to collect the arrears when they get out of control. This is why we aim to keep arrears as low as possible. During the pandemic, the court system was put on hold. Evictions that were due to happen in Spring 2020 were cancelled and no court hearings were held for a long time. This meant that thousands more pounds of debt was added to sometimes already high arrears amounts.
How do rental arrears affect me?
The loss of income through arrears has a direct knock-on effect on what we can invest in your homes. For example, if we don’t meet our targets for rental income, the Planned Works team might have to put some of their work on hold, so you may not get your new kitchen or bathroom when it was due to be fitted. Another example is that each year the Development team plan new to build new affordable homes. If the income isn’t there to pay for these, then there may be delays to the programme of development and residents have to wait longer to move into their new homes. The Income Team are here to support you with paying your rent and keeping any arrears low so we can continue to invest as much as possible into improving your homes and the services we deliver, and building new affordable homes.
How do arrears targets work?
We have a target we want to reach at the end of a financial year. When deciding what this figure is, the Board accepts that we will not be able to collect 100% of the rent due, so they agree an amount of money that we won’t be able to collect over a year – the bad debt. This is then split into the different areas and regions we work in. We get weekly figures sent to us so we can see how we are progressing against this target. This can also show if we are having any problems or underperforming in any area. This information allows us to redistribute the workload amongst the team to make sure we are providing extra support for residents where it is needed to get back on track.
You can think about rental income like a cake in a shop. The whole of the cake is 100%. You cut the cake into 20 pieces – it’s a big cake! – and you expect to be left with one piece, that’s 5%. So, if Network Homes set an arrears target of 5% and we have 5 pieces of cake left an hour before closing time, we need to get help in to try and sell more cake. Alternatively, if the arrears target is 5% and we hit 4%, then we have collected more rent than we expected – or sold more cake than we thought we would!
Are arrears high or low at the moment?
Our arrears target for the 2021/22 financial year was 4.25% and we finished the year on 3.83% arrears. This was a great outcome which highlights how the Income team have successfully supported residents as well as supporting the continual investment in resident services and building new affordable homes. We are currently finalising our arrears target for 2022/23 and we’re working hard to continue the success of last year!
If you have any worries or concerns about paying your rent, our Income team are here to help. Please call us on 0300 373 3000 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out our Contact Us form: www.networkhomes.org.uk/contact-us