October 2020 - Resident Forum minutes

Resident Forum minutes - 23rd October 2020

1. Welcome, introductions and apologies 

CD welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced SB to those who had not yet met her.

Apologies were recorded. 

2. Minutes from last meeting / Declarations of Interest

Minutes from last meeting were all agreed. There were no declarations of interest.

3. Resident Forum Work Programme:

  • Q2 KPI’s will be available for the next meeting in November

  • 1st Task and Finish scrutiny project started in October, with the view it will be complete by end of November, the forum will be kept updated

LK commented that work programme working really well.

4. Resident Forum Recommendation List update:

SPr – What progress is being made with the completed ASB Task and Finish review – CD to follow up with the Assistant Director of Housing.

5. Rent Letter review:

CD – gave overview of how letters are used within the Trust, LS, Income Collection Manger has asked the Forum for feedback. A review of the letters had always been planned for this year.

Covid has had a significant impact on rent arrears. Initially, there was a large spike in arrears cases, the majority of these are now on a repayment plan. This spike has increased our average arrears cases, we now have 244 cases with arrears over £1000, compared to 120 cases with arrears over £1000 in early March. Our current total arrears are 2.12% of our annual rent debit, which is £887,241.59.

Ltr 1: Sent when Resident goes behind on rent, giving advice on how to pay and who to contact. .

RS – Letter seems slightly harsh and could cause issues with residents suffering with mental health/anxiety. Change to wording in first paragraph, agreed by all.

LK – Agrees with RS on wording of letter and asked do residents get a visit at this point or even letter 2? CD advised an offer of a visit is arranged at letter 3.

Only 43% are on D/D or Standing order, more are being encouraged to go down this route. CD stated the point is made in these letters to offer help/assistance, as unless we are informed by residents the Trust does not know individual situations.

Ltr 2: Raised if arrears continue and no contact received from resident – letter advises resident to get in touch or that further action will be taken. CD explained that in the letters the residents are given all contact information to help then resolve the issue or get help.

LK – is there a high incident of residents not getting in touch at the Trust?

LS – Unfortunately, yes. Every resident is different, but often when a resident has debt worries they can find it difficult to start talking to us to allow us to support them.

RS - Suggested that maybe a visit should be offered in letter 1or 2 to help suit all the different circumstances? CD advised this is done in letter 3

LK mentioned that a similar scheme used by Citizens Advise Bureau (CAB) and it worked well as shows residents have intent to pay. Happy the Trust are taking this approach.

All agreed that this letter should have the slightly firmer approach.

SPr - How long, roughly, does it take from Letter 1 to Eviction? CD – Depends, in the case of no engagement from resident at all approx. 4 months.  If none or limited engagement (may pay some of agreed monies but then lapse on payments) could be 6/9 months or longer.

A COVID-19 insert is being sent with the letters, which members reviewed and agreed with.

RS – Agrees COVID-19 sheet expresses things in a better way, and to use something along this kind of wording for letter 1? – CD will update letter 1 to reflect this suggestion.

Ltr 3:

RS – Visit to home in second letter would be helpful? – Rent advisor carries out visits and if contact made this can be offered. Otherwise it’s offered at letter 3.

LK – Face to face contact is always better, as the resident is more relaxed to talk and see’s a person is listening and understanding their issues?  CD advises comments will be noted to mark up letter to encourage residents to contact if in difficulties.

RS – Also said to do this on 1st letter too? – CD to take forward as feedback

LK – asked CD to confirm when 1st letter is sent out? CD confirmed after 1st missed payment.

Ltr 4: After Notice Served

SPr – Re: income and expenditure form, would this not be a good idea to put in letter 1 or 2? CD explained that when contact is made (from letter 1 or 2) then an offer of referral to the Welfare Team is suggested and this form will be completed with the resident.

Ltr 6: Eviction Warning

This could be weeks or months depending on circumstances of resident.

RS – Asked could the Trust get possession if agreement to pay back in place? CD confirmed Court order can be adjusted but this would need to be put to back to the Court for agreement as a legal document.

Ltr 7: Eviction from your Home – Letter sent 7 days after letter 6.

RS – Agrees details of CAB etc. are a good point on the letters.

LK – Agrees it has to be blunt and to point and good that offer of help is still included.

Ltr 8: Eviction Date/Time

All members agreed the content of the letter.

CD went through the other letters that are used to notify residents about court hearings and adjustments. Members reviewed these letters and content agreed by all.

CD to send the letters to all members, including those unable to attend the meeting for further comment/ feedback by 28/10/2020.

LK – Questioned about details on bottom of rent statement (arrears) residents worry about this as they have paid there rent! CD verbally clarified but would seek confirmation on this.

SPr – Asked what average on year, how many get to Court or Eviction stages?

LS - Last financial year 190 applications we made to court, 58 evictions were booked, but only 21 evictions went ahead. We do everything we can, to prevent any resident loosing their home, by attempting to provide support right up to the point of eviction.

SPr - Also asked how many residents have had up to letter 3?

LS - Last financial year we sent the following:

4668 letter 1s

3067 letter 2s

           985 letter 3s (Notice of seeking possession)

6. Mind Training (Workshops):

CD advised members about the workshops going ahead by Bucks Mind – Improve your Mental Well-being on Weds 28.0.20 at 2pm to 4pm and Coping Strategies on Weds 04.11.20 at 2pm to 4pm.

These are open to all residents, over the age of 18, if interested to let us know by emailing hello@vaht.co.uk

7. Items for the next agenda:

If any member has suggestions for the items for the next meeting, email CD.

8. AOB

TT raised a suggestion – Asked if residents (in groups) can use Webex to keep in contact (general chat)? – CD said yes that would be fine and suggested maybe a Friday in the afternoon – 1hour. SB/CD to arrange Webex for residents. This has been booked for 6 November 12-1pm, invites to follow.

BS raised an issue to the greens space where he lives, following recent work, CD advised to report to the Contact Centre. CD is happy to provide contact details if needed.

Date/Time of next meeting:

Thursday 19.11.20 - 10am to 11.30am

Location: On-Line (Webex)