Council Christmas card warns London tenants to 'pay your rent'

Postcard advises tenants not to 'overindulge' over the festive period

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The Independent Online

Christmas cards which have been distributed to west London tenants by Hammersmith and Fulham Council have been causing a stir for warning residents to "pay your rent".

The cards, which were distributed across approximately 17,000 households, advises tenants not to "overindulge" during the festive period. The text is accompanied by an image showing a pound coin fizzing in a glass.

Underneath the image, the text reads: "If you are having trouble paying your rent, we want to help" and advertises the number of a helpline for tenants who are struggling to keep up with payments.

Speaking on BBC London 94.9, Tina Buckley, who has lived with her mother Mary in a council property for 25 years, described the card as a "threatening piece of literature masquerading as a Christmas greeting".

"What's made me so angry is my mum's been a tenant for 60 years", she said.

"She's never been behind with her rent and when we were young and there wasn't much money she'd pay her rent before she'd feed us and clothe us and heat the house."

Hammersmith and Fulham Council told The Independent it was "delighted" at the coverage the card has thus far received, because "it has raised the profile of a very serious issue" and it wants to prevent tenants from falling into rent arrears.

"Forty-six per cent of our tenants are in arrears, and we want to offer these tenants help and also stop people who have an unblemished record from getting into that mess," a spokesperson said.

Cllr Andrew Johnson, Hammersmith and Fulham Council Cabinet Member for Housing, said the postcard was not intended to be insulting and was instead issued "to deter tenants from getting into debt over a period which can bring financial headaches" and rent arrears can spike.

He said: "Research shows that this is the one time of year that many families will consider forgoing their rent. This brings stress and worry as it can often be very difficult to catch-up. We want to prevent this from happening while offering support to people who are experiencing financial hardship."