CAMPAIGNS: Public Sector - Brent calls time on rent shy tenants

Client: Brent Borough Council

Client: Brent Borough Council

Campaign: Collection of council house rent

PR Team: In-house (Brent Housing)

Timescale: October 1999 - April 2000

Budget: pounds 1,500

Brent Council has had problems in the past collecting rent for council

housing in the borough. Brent has the highest homeless population in

London, with many people living in temporary housing, such as bed and

breakfast accommodation. All rent collected by the borough goes back

into housing services.


To increase the amount of rent collected during the council’s financial

year from council tenants in the borough from 96.4 per cent to the 99.5

per cent needed to balance the books, especially following the

traditional dip in payments after the Christmas and New Year


Strategy and Plan

Brent Council decided to take a tough line on residents who would not

pay their rent, while trying to remain sensitive to those who had

legitimate reasons for not paying. The approach it decided to adopt was

that it would evict any tenant who would not pay their rent, but would

willingly offer help to those who could not.

In October, Brent Housing used the local press to express its

forthcoming intentions of ’zero tolerance’ but stressed that any tenants

who foresaw problems with paying their rent should consult one of the

borough’s ’rent surgeries’. These were set up so that tenants could

speak to a housing officer who could either offer advice or draw their

attention to one of the easier payment schemes.

Brent Housing launched the main phase of its campaign in the new


It designed a poster in-house that delivered a powerful message to

potential culprits. The poster featured an empty room in a council

property with the slogan ’Our New Year’s Re(nt)solution’ at the top. It

stated unequivocally that ’Brent Council will evict tenants who will not

pay their rent’. However, at the bottom of the poster was a line that

asked people to phone a number if they needed help in paying.

The poster was put up in all council offices in the borough, on all

council vehicles, in all area housing offices - where tenants would go

to report a leaking pipe, for example - as well as on 30 backlit poster

hoardings in the area. A deal was made with poster contractors to

provide the hoarding sites free of charge.

At the same time, stories were given to the local press that reiterated

the demand for payment and the consequences of not doing so. The stories

also included case-studies of previous evictions, as well as those who

had been helped by friendly staff to clear their arrears. Local

councillors were quoted in these various articles. The message was very

much ’if you ignore the problem then you’ll be evicted’.

Measurement and Evaluation

The local newspapers communicated the council’s new stance on payment of

rent, leading up to and during the action period of the campaign.

For the financial year leading up to April 2000 the campaign

successfully achieved a 100 per cent collection of rent - amounting to

over pounds 43 million - as well as collecting a proportion of rent

arrears, bringing the percentage up to 100.6 per cent. This exceeded the

99.5 per cent target that had been set.


The local press and the poster aspect of the campaign successfully

communicated the need to pay council house rent in the borough, with the

council collecting its entire rent for the first time ever.

The council managed to avoid criticism of its hard line approach by

always clearly communicating that it was willing to give help to those

who asked for it.

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