THOUSANDS of council house tenants across Kirklees could be asked to pay for repairs to their homes.
Kirklees Council is to tighten up procedures for collecting rents from its tenants.
And a new way of billing for repairs looks set to be approved at Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing's main board committee meeting tomorrow.
It will mean that tenants will have to pay the cost of many repairs previously borne by the council. But where damage is accidental or caused by vandals, no charge will be levied.
Unpaid rents owed to the council stand at £1.8m, of which £1.68m is from former tenants.
In an effort to lower arrears repairs under £25, formerly written off, will now be collected, while an external debt recovery agency will be recruited to collect unpaid debts.
A new price list has also been drawn up for fixing charges for an array of repairs. These range from a few pounds for a tiling job to just under £450 for replacing a fireplace.
Callout charges range from £71.53 to £89.93.
An additional £38.70 payment for instant response will be levied.
That means a bill can be drawn up and presented to the tenant immediately.
For tenants with outstanding debts, the work can be refused.
Vulnerable tenants, such as those with learning difficulties, mental health problems or the disabled, will be exempt from charges.
The move follows recommendations from the finance and performance sub-committee made at the beginning of last month.
An internal audit in January, 2002, made recommendations on the procedures for raising charges.
A joint working group, comprising the Rent Arrears Recovery Service, housing management and finance staff, has been looking at those recommendations.
An internal audit discovered that most major costs resulted from repairs to empty properties.
In 2001, 86% of the charges involved former tenants.
There are 27,000 authority homes in Kirklees.
Clr Ken Smith, who sits on the housing board, said the changes were minor and would further help to cut rent arrears.
"It's been something that has been tightened up for a while now. It's one of those charges which is pretty difficult to collect at times," he added.
He said any debt recovery company would be vetted thoroughly.
He said that in the past there had been problems when the council employed such firms.
"We have had problems of the external contractor operating incorrectly at times - which we jumped on quite quickly.
"We have got to take a very, very close overview of how they operate. We don't want to go in too heavy- handed," said Clr Smith.