Bristol City Council to write-off former tenants’ unpaid rent worth £1.5m

Unpaid rent by council tenants in Bristol is to be written off. Credit: Bristol City Council

More than £1.5million of unpaid rent is being written off by Bristol City Council.

The local authority has agreed to give up trying to chase the debts of nearly 3,500 former tenants.

The unpaid rent predates the pandemic and is now considered unrecoverable.

An average of £446 is owned by 3,446 former tenants.

The debt has been deemed "unrecoverable" by Bristol City Council

The total debt for the council's housing revenue account (HRA) stands at £13.1million, with £8.5million related to current tenants.

In a statement, Bristol City Council said: “A review of debt older than three years has been undertaken for which there has been no activity or payments during the last 12 months.

“Reviewing this historic debt and considering the likelihood of collecting it, it is considered better value for money to direct resource to manage £8.5million of current tenant priority debts and other active debts.”

'Ethical enforcement'

Cabinet member for housing Cllr Tom Renhard described pursuing the unpaid rent as "uneconomical".

“As the debts are all over three years old, this significantly impaired our ability to evidence transparency of the debts by former residents," he said.

“We always want to recover debts to fund council services, however, in this instance we are considering the viability and economy of the write-off as well as impact on the individuals who are unable to pay.”

Labour Cllr Marley Bennett told the meeting - which was held on Thursday, March 3 - it was important to find a balance between recovering money owed and protecting vulnerable people.

“We have a policy in place to differentiate between those who can’t pay and those who won’t play, so I’m pleased we are willing to write off debts where it’s appropriate," he said.

Cllr Renhard replied: “It’s about taking a psychologically informed approach to debt and debt management.

“We know that the earlier we intervene, when the debts are smallest, it’s then easier to deal with. Once debts have started occurring, it becomes far more challenging."

Credit: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter