Nearly £1m extra could be made if vacant council houses were prepared on time for new tenants

Nearly £1 million in extra rent could be found if vacant council houses were prepared for new tenants on time, councillors heard.

Ian Halstead of Powys County Council's internal auditors SWAP
Ian Halstead of Powys County Council's internal auditors SWAP

Powys County Council’s audit committee met on Thursday, November 19, and discussed a report by the council’s internal auditor SWAP on house clearances known as “voids clearing.”

After an investigation, SWAP issued an “unfavourable opinion” for the time it takes to make a council house ready for new tenants once it falls vacant.

SWAP assistant director Ian Halstead said: “There were failings in the voids process. We failed to meet targets in terms of inspection, repairs and the letting.

“Clearly part of that is around the management of the contractor who delivers the repairs.

“But the positive is that if we can manage those areas better there is an opportunity to generate a significant additional revenue.”

Process

The SWAP report showed that at an average rental cost of £95 a week, for the period they looked at from December 2019 to March 2020, the cost of lost rental income was £313,445.

This would equate to £940,335 over a 12-month period.

In the past, it had been expected to have houses ready for the next tenant in 17 days.

The report said that target times for the completion of works are now set by the housing surveyors in agreement with the contractor.

The failings highlighted in the report are that housing surveyors don’t achieve their initial inspection 29 per cent of the time and currently all contractors are only achieving between 25 per cent to 33 per cent of the work on target.

The report added that there was no identified process of what to do if a contractor went bust very quickly.

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