Aberdeenshire Council trials social media collecions

7th November 2016

Aberdeenshire Council is sending messages through Facebook and WhatsApp in a bid to recoup unpaid rent. The Council has been contacting people living in council homes who are in debt using methods other than just post. A total of 35 evictions were carried out by the local authority in 2015/16, with £104,830 owed to the council.

This included £83,143 in rent and £21,687 in other debts such as repairs to the property totalling £2,995 per eviction. Almost half of the 35 evictions, 15, involved a household with a person under two years old living in it. A total of 24 out of 35 evictions were involving people who were single. The cost of evictions is at a three-year high, with £80,994 and £100,057 being spent by the council in 2014/15 and 2013/14.

A report, to be heard by the social work and housing committee councillors on Thursday, by Stephen Archer, director of infrastructure services at the local authority, says: “Aberdeenshire Council does all it can to avoid evictions and attempts various ways to engage with tenants. The service is assessing the current methods of communication with tenants. This includes home visits; letter; e-mail; phone; text and messaging tools such as WhatsApp and Instant Messenger which is linked to Facebook. The service intends to consider ways to effectively communicate and engage with tenants as well as modernise and become more efficient in our approaches. It is accepted that a letter is not the most effective communication tool in isolation.”

“Despite various attempts to contact tenants, there are cases where unfortunately multiple arrangements to repay are broken. The rent arrears recovery escalation process provides ample opportunities for tenants in arrears to maintain agreements. Mobile technology is being advanced across the council and sits firmly in the rent arrears process to improve and streamline working practices.”

It does not appear, however, that Aberdeen City Council has any plans to use a similar tact. Councillor Neil Cooney, communities, housing and infrastructure committee convener, said: “We’ve looked down that avenue before but we have a fairly good debt counselling service. We alert anyone who is in major debts – over a couple of hundred pounds – there’s counselling available, we’ve a team that works with tenants to try to alleviate problems and we work with Shelter so if they don’t trust the council then they can act as a mediator. We don’t need the Facebook route.”