In a strange twist, official figures released for last year show that while court action against tenants for rent arrears has fallen, the numbers losing their home has risen to record levels.
Ministry of Justice figures show that in 2015 more than 250 tenants were evicted every day in England and Wales. This represents a growing trend in recent years of landlords taking firmer action against a backdrop of welfare benefit cuts and a huge growth in demand for rented accommodation.
The number of evictions increased by 53 per cent over the five years from 2010. In England, 19,093 evictions were by social landlords – housing associations and councils, while 5,919 were by private landlords.
A further 16,440 evictions were made through the “accelerated procedure”, which can be used by landlords to evict tenants on assured shorthold tenancies. This figure more than trebled from 5,641 in 2010 to 16,440 in 2015.
In total 42,728 households in rented accommodation were forcibly removed by bailiffs – this is understood to be the highest number since records began in 2000.
Landlord claims to repossess their properties because tenants had fallen into arrears fell between 2002 and 2010, before rising to their current level – 53 per cent higher than 2010 and 2 per cent higher than 2014.
But even these frightening figures do not reveal the full picture as many tenants leave before this stage is reached – either to avoid the indignity of being “kicked out” or because they have reached an agreement to leave.
And where tenants live in the country has a big impact on having action taken against them, no doubt fuelled by higher demand and higher rental values in the South East of England.
Tenants in London were the most likely to lose their homes, as 16 of the 20 boroughs with the highest proportion of landlord repossessions are in the capital, with Newham in East London recording the highest rate at 191 repossessions for every 100,000 households in the area.
Possession claims down!
Meanwhile in what appears to be a counter intuitive set of figures, the number of possession claims started by landlords actually fell during the year to 148,043.
Of these, 90,317 claims were started by social landlords, 20,063 by private landlords and 37,663 were accelerated claims, which are usually only used by private landlords.
The Ministry of Justice figures show social landlords have reduced the number of possession cases they instigated from almost 108,000 claims in 2013, to 100,776 in 2014 and then down to 90,317 claims last year.
It is likely this fall in possession claim figures (back down to 2011 levels) is due to social landlords working more closely with tenants to prevent rent arrears building up in the face of welfare reform changes and in helping tenants to manage their finances better. Ongoing welfare benefit freezes and cuts will test the ability of landlords to collect rent, keep arrears down and cases out of the courts.