Thousands of pounds owed by deceased tenants to be written-off by Harrogate Council

Harrogate Borough Council will write off almost 40,000 in housing debts.
Harrogate Borough Council will write off almost 40,000 in housing debts.

Harrogate council will write-off almost £40,000 worth of debt from tenants who have died, been sent to prison or evicted while in council housing.

Cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development Graham Swift signed off on the proposal to wipe a total of £39,529.22 in former tenant housing debts the council will write-off.

The majority of outstanding debt comes from tenants who have died while in accommodation, as well as former tenants who have been evicted and can't be traced using national search tools.

Tenants who have died without any assets make up £14,342.01 of that total of £39,529.22, with 73 cases recorded in a council report.

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A £16,106.65 chunk comes from cases where tenants had been evicted from council housing or temporary accommodation and were untraceable, with country-wide search tools such as the National Anti-Fraud Network unsuccessful in finding them.

Coun Swift said that pursuing the debt could potentially cost more than writing it off.

“There are a number of reasons we have decided to write off the debt from former council tenants; the majority of this comes from either tenants that have sadly passed away or tenants who were evicted and remain untraceable using national search tools (such as the National Anti-Fraud Network)," Coun Swift said.

“In both instances, there is almost no way that this can be recovered and, if it could, may ultimately cost more than the outstanding debt to try and do so.”

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The council will also wipe £1789.38 from two cases of former tenants who are now in prison, while three clerical error cases costing £223.83 will also be written-off.

The total arrears represent 0.25 per cent of the annual housing debit.

The money is a loss to the housing revenue account, which is funded almost entirely from rent income from tenants, rather than from council tax.

In a separate matter, the council will also wipe £9,644.70 owed from customers that it considers is irrecoverable.

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Of that, £6,017.10 comes from three unpaid invoices for events held at Harrogate Convention Centre between December 2017 and April 2018.

The three companies involved - Gin Festival Ltd, Wire Events and Media, and Corpfin Capital Ltd - are all either in administration or already dissolved.

A total of £2,251.59 will be written-off as it is considered uneconomical to pursue the various sources, while £771.66 is considered untraceable.

By wiping it off, council will be able to claim back £1,017.85 in valued added tax, knocking the write-off down to £8,626.85.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter