The state of Longford County Council’s beleaguered financial plight is laid bare this week with more than €1m being owed to the local authority in rent arrears.
Newly released figures, obtained by the Leader under the Freedom of Information Act, show how almost a third of tenants have fallen behind on their rental agreements.
Up until the end of June out of the council’s 2,831 tenancies countywide, 917 of those were deemed to be in arrears, owing a total of €1.019m.
The largest figure owed to the council, by some distance, concerns its current social housing stock with €859, 657 outstanding from 650 tenants that are presently in the red.
A further 145 households in receipt of the State’s HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) scheme owe almost €34,000 to the council with a further 122 agreements under RAS (Rental Accommodation Scheme) and leasehold arrangements in arrears to the tune of €126,112.
The latter two, HAP and RAS, are two housing-support schemes for social tenants.
In accordance with RAS, local authorities draw up contracts with landlords to provide housing for an agreed term for people with a long-term housing need and pay rents directly to property owners on that basis.
It's housing support equivalent is similar to the State's previous Rental Allowance scheme with a portion of monthly rents being paid by the council to landlords in return for rent charges being applied based on income.
It's not known how long 145 tenants of the council's 506 homesteads within HAP are in arrears for but under local authority rules if a tenant falls into arrears for eight weeks or more their HAP payment is stopped.
Cathaoirleach of Longford County Council Cllr Paul Ross said while a number of tenants had been placed on payment plans to help deal with their arrears, the ongoing pandemic was undeniably impacting the council's balance sheets.
“There is no doubt that the level of arrears is being adversely affected by Covid-19 and we are currently predicting a collection rate of 83% at the end of 2020, which is still high at a national level,” he said.
Cllr Ross said there was no escaping how difficult a year 2020 has, so far, been for many families and urged those under financial pressure to engage with local authority housing officials.
“I would ask them to speak to our housing staff if they are having difficulty in paying rents and to seek a rent review if their income has changed due to Covid 19 as they may be eligible for lower,” he said.