§ Mr. Kilfedder
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the present level of rent arrears owed to the 678W Housing Executive ; how the figure compares with a year ago; and what steps are being taken to reduce these arrears.
§ Mr. Goodhart
On 31 March 1980 arrears due to the Housing Executive were about £10 million, which was an absolute increase of £1.3 million over the previous year. The Executive's policy is to attempt to prevent debt occurring in the first instance, to obtain agreement to repay arrears based on what the tenant can afford and, where this fails, to take recovery action either through the courts or under the Payments for Debt (Emergency Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971. From November this year the rent direct scheme will replace the present benefit allocation procedures for the recovery of arrears from persistent defaulters in receipt of supplementary benefits.
Emphasis is placed on personal contact with tenants in arrears and the completion of computerisation of rent accounting in the Executive's district offices will enable staff to increase the number of visits to tenants.