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“We want people to stay in their homes and we will do everything we can to ensure that happens”

January is always a tough time for our finances.. If you’re behind with your rent, don’t suffer in silence. Our Income Officer Ralph Atherton tells us about some of the challenging cases he’s come across during his time with the Trust.

It’s a bright, clear day here at Wharton Gardens.

This is Ralph Atherton’s patch and one he’s got to know well during his two and a half years with the Trust. He knows the alley ways and the best shortcuts, and his weekly visits have allowed him to build up good relationships with people in the neighbourhood.

So far he’s knocked on several doors, but no one has answered. The routine’s the same – Ralph leaves a postcard with a message and his contact details in the hope that someone will get back in touch.

The next door knock proves more successful. A young woman called Kelly answers the door and greets him with a familiar hello.

After a few minutes, it becomes clear why people might be reluctant to answer the door to Ralph. He’s here to tell Kelly that she faces the prospect of losing the home she shares with her young family.

Kelly is in breach of her court order after falling behind with her rent arrears. There’s a long silence as the reality of the situation hits home.

But Ralph is here to help – he is part of our Income Team that supports  our customers to manage their rent effectively. Whether it’s working with individuals to tackle debt issues, or advice on the best way to pay their rent, Ralph and the team have helped hundreds of people in difficult circumstances. 

“The biggest problem we come across is customers who we know need help, but then don’t respond to our attempts to contact them,” Ralph said.

“We make repeated attempts to get in touch with people. It could be over the phone, email, letter, sending a text or by trying to see them in person. We want people to stay in their homes and we will do everything we can to ensure that happens – provided people engage with us. Whatever you have going on in your life, paying your rent should always be top priority. It’s frustrating because we are often seen as the ‘bad guys’ – but we are genuinely here to help people maintain their tenancy.

“Sometimes, it does take me turning up on the doorstep with an eviction notice for the penny to drop.  Saying that, there’s been other occasion when I’ve told someone that they’re in real danger of losing the roof over their head – and it still doesn’t sink in.”

After the initial shock and a few tears, Kelly calms down and regains her composure. Ralph is firm yet supportive – never shying away from the severity of the situation. Together they work out a payment plan and he encourages her to set up a standing order or direct payment to make things easier. Ralph also agrees to hold off eviction proceedings - provided Kelly makes up the arrears and agrees to pay every week. The team is also on hand to help Kelly manage any other debts she may have.

He added: “The sad thing is that it doesn’t have to get to this stage – the earlier people get in touch with us and tell us what’s going on, the easier it is to sort out. .

“I have a couple of children myself and the cases involving families do keep me awake at night. Eviction is always the last resort and our aim is to make sure customers stay in their homes.” 

The full article is included in the latest edition of ‘Your Home’, which you can read here.

If you’re worried about your finances, please get in touch with the team by calling 01606 813535 or email rentfirst@wvht.couk

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