Rent dodgers' homes targeted by landlord

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AS bailiffs swooped on Peterborough homes yesterday (May 29), the city's biggest landlord urged tenants to seek help rather than try to dodge paying their rent.

AS bailiffs swooped on Peterborough homes yesterday (May 29), the city's biggest landlord urged tenants to seek help rather than try to dodge paying their rent.The move came after Cross Keys Homes warned that it was taking a tough stance on rent arrears.

Last year the housing association re-possessed 70 properties, and yesterday they took back a flat in Flore Close, Westwood, where a 36-year-old man owed 1,600 in rent and another in Tyesdale, Bretton, where the 22-year-old occupier owed 2,500.

But recovery manager Cheryl Quinton said that although 10 houses have been seized so far in this financial year, court action and eviction were always the last resorts after all efforts to help tenants had failed.

She said: "We are a registered social landlord and we are in this game to help people and help them stay in their tenancies.

"Where people have difficulties, we contact them and try to reach a realistic agreement with them to keep them out of court.

"We would rather see a reasonable amount being paid off their arrears every week or every month, rather than them offer an unrealistic amount which they then default on. We want an agreement that is geared to them."

At the two-bedroom flat in Flore Close, they found the tenant had disappeared with most of his belongings. A workman changed the lock and the property was closed up to await being fully cleared and redecorated.

It was a similar story in Tyesdale, where the occupier had also done a flit before the authorities arrived.

Mrs Quinton said in both cases, the tenants had failed to take up repeated offers of help.

With rent arrears mounting, Cross Keys had to go to the County Court to seek orders to take back possession of the properties.

Even then the tenants could have avoided eviction, she said, as there is a delay between the initial order being granted and an eviction warrant being obtained from the court. Mrs Quinton said: "If the eviction is at 11.15am and we get a call at 11am to say the tenant is at the court, we would have to go down and speak to the judge. Even at the 11th hour things can change."

Cross Keys Homes is about to take on a new officer, she added, whose role will include informing tenants about their rights and the help available should they get into difficulty with their rent. Mrs Quinton said: "We have been told our number of evictions is about right, but we want to get it down."

With 8,000 people on the city's housing waiting list, all hoping to get a home of their own, there is no shortage of tenants wanting re-possessed properties.