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Housing

Evictions have increased by 400 per cent in a year

New statistics released by the government reveal the extent of the housing crisis for private renters.

The number of households facing eviction has increased by 400 per cent in a year after Covid protections ended.

A total of 2,706 repossessions took place between October and December last year, compared to 548 in the year before, the Ministry of Justice revealed on Thursday. 

While the figures were down compared to pre-pandemic levels, the report reveals a huge increase in the number of possession claims, orders, warrants and repossessions since protections ended.

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“Throughout the pandemic period, the emergency measures put in place to suppress both landlord evictions and mortgage repossessions kept people in their homes but the pendulum is now swinging back to a situation where people are once again losing their homes,” said a spokesperson for StepChange, the leading debt charity in the UK.

“Given the big backlog of rent arrears still affecting tenants who were among the hardest hit by the financial effects of Covid, exacerbated now by the cost of living crisis, we think policymakers will need to keep a close eye on how tenants are faring. More support may well still be needed for the hardest hit households.”

Some people will have been evicted under Section 21 notices, which allow a landlord to evict a tenant without reason. The government’s ‘levelling up’ white paper published last week included long-awaited plans to abolish Section 21 notices.

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Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, said, “While possession cases have risen dramatically across the board since restrictions were lifted, the private rented sector is the first to return to the level of eviction claims we saw before the pandemic. A surge in people claiming universal credit, frozen local housing allowance and the fact private landlords don’t need a reason to ask tenants to leave mean private renters are in an incredibly precarious position.”

“The cost of the living crisis will make their situation even worse and could lead to a rise in homelessness in the year ahead. The government must provide more support for renters on low incomes, and prioritise the long-awaited abolition of section 21 evictions.”

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The Big Issue’s Stop Homelessness Campaign, which called for the so-called ‘no-fault’ evictions to be paused and renters to be given support to  pay debts, warned of the rise of mass homelessness during the pandemic. 

Nearly 170,000 people were homeless in London as of last year. The report suggests that London has nine of the 10 boroughs with the highest rate of landlord repossessions in the country.

“The worrying rise in landlord possession claims is a stark warning of what’s to come. Behind these numbers are the families and individuals at risk of being forced into homelessness and having their lives thrown into utter chaos and uncertainty if they are evicted from their homes,” said Francesca Albanese, head of research at Crisis.

“On top of this, with the cost of living crisis escalating and household bills financially crippling people, many more are struggling to afford essentials like food and heating and left worrying about how they’re going to continue paying their rent.

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“The government must act now and increase financial support for renters so more people get help with arrears. Lifting the freeze on housing benefit so it covers the true cost of renting is essential if we are to prevent people from falling into rent arrears. We also await progress with the long-delayed government proposal to abolish Section 21 and this must be prioritised.

“We urgently need the government to take action to prevent homelessness before it happens otherwise we will continue to see thousands of people pushed into homelessness in the coming months.” 

The report also highlighted an increase in all areas including the number of mortgage possession claims, orders, warrants and repossessions by county court bailiffs.

Most significantly, mortgage possession claims increased from 255 in the last three months of 2020 to 2,568 in the same time frame during 2021. This action involves the mortgage lender repossessing the property if a person is behind with making payments. 

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