We've announced a record-beating year for low-level rent arrears.
Over the past year we've seen the level of uncollected rent fall to 0.93% from 1.45% the previous year. It’s the equivalent of collecting an additional £200,000 in rent, which will be pumped back into improving customers’ homes and building new ones.
Head of Income Kelly Webster said: “It’s an incredible achievement to have reduced arrears by so much during the past year, especially considering the challenges facing our customers through the changes to benefits and low wage growth.
“Over the past year we’ve been acting on arrears quicker than before and helping people manage their debts. We’re meeting with customers and talking to them about what it means to be in arrears with their rent, what they need to do and what they can do to get help if they need it. Changing our approach has really earned the trust of customers and has helped bring arrears down.
“We never want to evict people and as well as recording our lowest ever arrears, we’ve also evicted fewer people for arrears during the year; just four compared to 13 the previous year. This shows we’re working better with our customers.”
Part of the work Merlin has been doing has been to support customers affected by the bedroom tax. It’s helped many customers move to a smaller property and has seen arrears owed by customers affected by the bedroom tax fall by 52% over the past year.
And with Universal Credit now in place across all of our operating areas, our average debt per household of £383 compares favourably with much of the sector.
“All of the money we collect from customers goes back into the business to improve customers’ homes and to help fund new developments,” Kelly added. “We have ambitious plans to increase the number of new homes we’re building which is only possible if we’re collecting income in good time.”