Tenants leave council with a £2.5m repair bill

Quadrant, North Tyneside Council at Cobalt Business Park, North Tyneside.
REF 2602156896
Quadrant, North Tyneside Council at Cobalt Business Park, North Tyneside. REF 2602156896

Newly-vacant council houses in North Tyneside required more than £2.5million of improvements before they were in a fit state to rent again.

A Freedom of Information request reveals the council has spent £2,500,908 repairing 1,408 properties after they became vacant in 2016.

That means each of these properties has cost the council on average around £1,776 to bring back into a rentable condition.

Additionally, the council has only been able to recover £117,452 from the tenants who caused the damage.

Freedom of Information requests were submitted to councils across the Tyne and Wear area by renting reform campaigner Ajay Jagota.

They revealed that a total of just under £19million was spent last year by authorities in North Tyneside, Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland on 9,146 council homes.

However, North Tyneside had the fewest houses needing repair and, as such, the lowest amount of money spent on these repairs.

A North Tyneside Council spokesman said that, although the repair bill is higher than it would like, the figures ‘do not reflect the full range of costs associated with managing void properties’, such as gas and electric safety checks, cleaning costs and other improvements.

He said: “Outgoing tenants leave properties in varying states of repair. Our main focus is on working with tenants to ensure that properties are well taken care of in the first place and we never hesitate to take action against irresponsible tenants, or to recover our repair costs from former tenants where possible.”

At the top of the list was Your Homes Newcastle, which runs within Newcastle City Council.

It had spent just over £7.5million on 1,935 properties, at an average cost of £3,900, while only recovering £123,211.

This was followed by Gentoo at Sunderland City Council, with £4.5million spent on 2,500 properties, and Gateshead Council, with £4.25million spent on 1,613 properties.

The research was carried out by Ajay Jagota, founder of deposit-free renting solution Dighted and South Shields-based sales and lettings firm KIS.

He said: “These figures reveal a worrying disparity among the North East council’s performances when it comes to council housing and in particular their record keeping and ability to recover losses caused by tenant damage.”