100 tenants a day lose homes as rising rents and benefit freeze hit

From The Guardian: A record number of renters are being evicted from their homes, with more than 100 tenants a day losing the roof over their head, according to a shocking analysis of the nation’s housing crisis. The spiralling costs of renting a property and a long-running freeze to housing benefit are being blamed for the rising number of evictions among Britain’s growing army of tenants.

More than 40,000 tenants in England were evicted in 2015, according to a study by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). It is an increase of a third since 2003 and the highest level recorded. The research appears to confirm fears that a mixture of rising costs and falling state support would lead to a rise in people being forced out of their homes. It will raise concerns that even those in work are struggling to pay their rent.

High numbers of “no-fault” evictions by private landlords is driving the increase. More than 80% of the extra evictions had occurred under a Section 21 notice, which gives a tenant two months to leave. The landlord does not have to give a reason and there does not need to be any wrongdoing on the part of the tenant.

The study found that changes in welfare benefits have combined to make rents unaffordable to claimants in many areas. Housing benefit was no longer covering the cost of renting in some cases, with average shortfalls ranging from £22 to £70 a month outside of London, and between £124 and £1,036 in inner London. Housing benefit has not risen in line with private rents since 2010, and a current freeze means the rates paid will not increase until 2020.

A series of interviews with private renters who are struggling to meet their bills exposed the pressure some low-paid tenants are now under. One man said that the £50 shortfall he had suffered was “almost a week’s money in itself”.

“And then you’ve got the other bills…I just couldn’t make it work. I had to choose, what do I pay this month – do I pay the rent? Do I pay the electricity? Do I buy some food? And it just snowballed.”

A single mother in her 20s said: “I paid it as much as I could, but my youngest child has been quite sickly … If my kids are sick, I don’t get paid.”

The problem is particularly acute in London and the south-east. Four out of every five repossessions using Section 21 orders are in London, the east of England and the south-east. Nearly two-thirds are in London. Within the city, Section 21 repossessions are concentrated in the boroughs of Newham, Enfield, Haringey, Brent and Croydon. Of the 40,000 evictions, there were 19,019 repossessions in the social housing sector, and 22,150 in the private rented sector.

Letting agency fees, the need for a guarantor and finding the cash for a deposit were all major barriers to securing a new home. Most tenants said they would prefer social housing, but were either ineligible or not a sufficient priority to be allocated a home.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of JRF, said: “The stark figures and harrowing stories show the struggle people on low incomes face in the private rented sector.” He called for the freeze on housing benefit to be lifted. “With higher rents, a benefits freeze and impossible choices about what bills to pay, evictions have reached record levels and put families under enormous strain,” he said. “Tenants told us about the misery and insecurity they face.

[Read full article on the Guardian website…]