Tenant evictions reach six-year high amid rising rents and benefit cuts

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu May 14 23:36:38 BST 2015

Tenant evictions reach six-year high amid rising rents and benefit cuts

Bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 
11,000 families in the first three months of 
2015, 51% higher than in same period five years ago
Police walk past as activists from Housing Action Southwark and

Gayle - Thursday 14 May 2015 14.29 BST

The number of tenants evicted from their homes is 
at a six-year high, according to new figures, as 
rising rents and cuts to benefits make tenancies increasingly unaffordable.

County court bailiffs in England and Wales 
evicted more than 11,000 families in the first 
three months of 2015, an increase of 8% on the 
same period last year and 51% higher than five years ago.

The increase in the number of tenants losing 
their homes means 2015 is on course to break last 
year’s record levels. Nearly 42,000 families were 
evicted from rental accommodation in 2014, the 
highest number since records began in 2000.

prices have soared in many UK cities but wages 
failing to keep pace with rising costs and caps 
to benefits have left many poorer tenants unable to make payments.

Separate figures also published on Thursday 
showed almost 59,000 households have had their 
benefits capped in the past two years. Nearly 
half of those families were in London, where the 
the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home is £2,216.

charities said the figures were a glaring 
reminder that many tenants were struggling to 
maintain a roof over their heads, and they called 
on the new government to do more to tackle a housing crisis in the UK.

The latest repossession statistics, 
by the Ministry of Justice, reveal the highest 
number of evictions in a single quarter since 
2009, when comparable records began, with nearly 
126 families forced out every day.

Between January and March, 11,307 tenants and 
their families were evicted by bailiffs, compared 
with a figure of 10,380 between October and 
December last year, and 10,482 in the first quarter of 2014.
  This graph shows the number of evictions 
actually carried out by quarter since 2009.

The record figure comes as the number of landlord 
repossession claims – the first step of the legal 
process leading to an eviction – also rose. 
Claims were up 10% on the last quarter, but at 
42,226 they remained below a six-year high of 
47,208 in the first quarter of 2014.

Claims by both private and social landlords were 
up, the figures showed, although most of the rise 
was explained by claims by the latter. Social 
landlords were behind nearly five times as many 
attempts to recover properties than private 
landlords, the figures showed. These landlords 
are typically housing associations providing 
homes at lower rents than the market rate, often 
to tenants who receive housing benefit.

In the first three months of the year, 64% of 
possession claims were made by social landlords. 
These 27,204 court actions came alongside 5,551 
made by private landlords and 9,741 accelerated 
claims, which could have been by either social or private landlords.
  This graph shows the number of repossession 
claims granted by the courts by quarter since 2009.

In May 2014, when the threat of evictions reached 
its highest level for a decade, the National 
Housing Federation, which represents housing 
associations across England, 
the Guardian the bedroom tax was causing problems 
for social landlords. The policy cuts the amount 
of housing benefit paid to social housing tenants 
whose homes are deemed too large for their 
requirements. Benefit sanctions were also thought to be causing problems.

But many housing associations, particularly in 
London and the south-east, have turned out 
tenants as they have sought to redevelop 
generations-old estates to take advantage of the 
big rise in property values. This has in turn led 
to an increase in the number of grassroots 
campaigns to oppose evictions, such as the Focus E15 mothers.

case of eviction resistance last week, activists 
from Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth in 
London answered a call from a 14-year-old girl to 
successfully resist her family’s eviction from a 
flat in an estate that Southwark council had 
marked for demolition. Elsewhere in the capital, 
shorthold tenants in Brixton’s Loughborough Park 
estate, owned by the Guinness Partnership housing 
association, have 
eviction orders by occupying their flats.

The MoJ figures came on the same day as 
Department for Work and Pensions revealed that 
58,690 households across the UK had their 
benefits capped to a maximum of £26,000 a year 
since April 2013. Londoners were the worst 
affected, with 26,636 families facing a cut in 
benefits over the period to February 2015, 
followed by 5,953 in the rest of the south-east.

DWP proposals to meet the Conservatives’ pledge 
to cut £12bn from the welfare budget, 
documents leaked to the Guardian last week, 
included barring under-25s from claiming housing 
benefit, increasing the bedroom tax on certain 
categories of tenants, limiting welfare payments 
by family size and freezing welfare benefits at current levels.

Responding to the eviction statistics, Campbell 
Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Today’s 
figures are a glaring reminder that sky-high 
housing costs and welfare cuts are leaving 
thousands of people battling to keep a roof over their heads.

“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating 
impact of a housing market at boiling point, with 
the cost of renting so high that many families 
are living in fear that just one thing like 
losing their job or becoming ill could leave them 
with the bailiffs knocking at the door.

“The new government must make sure people aren’t 
left to fall through the cracks and hurtling 
towards homelessness by preserving, if not 
strengthening, the frayed housing safety net to 
protect ordinary families desperately struggling to make ends meet.”

Betsy Dillner, director of the campaign group 
Generation Rent, said: “These record eviction 
figures and signs that they are accelerating are 
a stark reminder of the housing crisis that the 
government must urgently start taking seriously now they’re back in power.

“Whether it’s an inability to pay expensive rents 
or a landlord’s desire to take back their 
property, the fact that more than 40,000 families 
were forced out of their homes last year is a 
symptom of the government’s failure to create a sustainable housing market.”

The housing minister, Brandon Lewis, defended the 
government’s performance, pointing out that 
mortgage repossessions had fallen drastically, 
keeping owner-occupiers in their “hard-earned homes”.

He said: “Mortgage repossessions continue to fall 
at 56% lower than this time last year, and the 
lowest annual figure since the series began in 
1987. Meanwhile, numbers of county court mortgage 
possession claims continue to fall to the lowest 
quarterly number since records began. This is 
thanks to our work to tackle the deficit and keep 
interest rates low, helping more families to stay in their hard earned homes.

“There are strong protections in place to guard 
families against the threat of homelessness. We 
increased spending to prevent homelessness, with 
over £500m made available to help the most 
vulnerable in society and ensure we don’t return 
to the bad old days when homelessness in England 
was nearly double what it is today.”

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