A PENSIONER who was sent 12 letters in one day from the Housing Executive demanding different payments said she is distraught at being left in the dark over what she actually owes for rent.
The Gilford woman said she is frustrated at how confusing a process she has been forced to go through to find out what she needs to pay.
“All I want to know is what I have to pay for my rent and rates,” said the local woman, who is aged in her early 80s.
“I know that when my pension changes the amount I have to pay changes too but what I can’t understand is why the Housing Executive cannot tell me in simple terms exactly what I owe them.
“It all leaves me very confused and worried.”
The woman said she is worried, especially on behalf of other tenants, that the forms are so complex they will confuse people to the extend that they will inevitably give the wrong payments.
“I am very concerned that housing executive tenants may be placed in a position of either overpaying or underpaying their rent and rates because of difficulties they are experiencing in understanding these forms,” she said.
“I am also concerned that, in the present climate of strained Departmental budgets, that to send out a considerable number of letters to a tenant on a single day, as has happened in this case, is a waste of public money.
“Alongside my request for simplification, I am also calling for a common sense approach to be taken to both generating and distributing all written notifications to tenants.”
Through her good friend Leslie Wilson, the lady approached local Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson who has now called for something to be done to simplify the process.
Mrs Dobson said, “I am quite sure that this lady is not alone in experiencing these problems.
“I have written to the Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland who has responsibility for the Housing Executive and asked him to simplify the forms which tenants receive. However I have been told in response that the Department are bound by legislation to send out documents in this format.
“I am quite sure that, with all the talk of government agencies communicating in plain English, the Housing Executive can make some simple and reasonable adjustments to their forms which will benefit all their tenants who are receiving these letters.”
Mr Wilson said he has repeatedly asked the Housing Executive how much the woman owes but still has not got a straight answer.
A spokeswoman from the Housing Executive said, “The Housing Executive sincerely apologies for the number of letters which were issued and for the confusion this has caused. The letters detail changes made regarding the Housing Benefit claim.
“We are arranging for a member of our staff to contact the lady as soon as possible to explain the details.”