Over 40,000 tenants were evicted from their homes by landlords in 2015 – an increase of a third since 2003 and the highest level recorded, according to the latest available figures in research for the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
The increasing eviction rates are linked to the overall growth of the private rentedsector and cuts to Housing Benefit, the report by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research found.
The rise is being driven by high numbers of ‘no-fault’ evictions by private landlords. More than four in five of the increase in evictions are carried out under Section 21 - a law which allows landlords to evict a tenant after the initial rental period without giving a reason, and without any wrongdoing on behalf of the tenant.
Poverty, evictions and forced moves also carried out 145 in-depth interviews with with tenants on low incomes supported by Shelter and facing eviction, showing the stress and disruption caused to people’s lives from insecure housing.
The report found:
- Changes in welfare benefits have combined to make rents unaffordable to benefit claimants in many areas. Housing Benefit no longer covers the cost of renting, with average shortfalls ranging from £22 to £70 per month outside of London, and between £124 and £1036 in inner London. This follows the cumulative impact of freezing Local Housing Allowance rates and below-inflation increases over the last six year:
With the £50 a month (Housing Benefit shortfall) coming out of the JSA – that’s 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 – Single man, 40s
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 – Single parent, female, 20s
- As a result, tenants on low incomes are being evicted because their benefits do not pay market rents, and they are unable to afford alternative homes in the private rented sector, or access social housing.
- Four out of every five repossessions using S21 are in London, the East and the South East, and nearly two-thirds are in London alone. Even within London, repossessions using S21 are highly concentrated, with a third occurring in only five boroughs: 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. The number of tenants evicted by private landlords exceeded the number evicted by social landlords for the first time in 2014. Unlike the PRS, tenants in the social housing sector can usually only be evicted for rent arrears or a breach of tenancy.
Protracted eviction proceedings did buy people time to look for a new home, but often they found there was nothing they could afford, putting families under extreme levels of stress. Others waited anxiously for the eviction, hoping the local authority would then assist them. Agency fees, the need for a guarantor, and finding a deposit, were all major barriers to finding a new home. Most tenants would prefer social housing, but were either ineligible, or not a sufficient priority to be allocated it.
We’ve been looking, but everything is so expensive it’s unreal... its £3,000 upfront…the rent per month is not the problem, it’s all the agency fees and the council won’t help us with any of it – Couple with children, 20s
My health’s pretty rubbish at the moment and it feels massive – moving and packing and finding somewhere – it just feels impossible. It’s just because of how rough I feel; it feels like an immense mountain at the moment – Single female, 30s
Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of JRF, said: “These stark figures and harrowing stories show the struggle people on low incomes face in the private rented sector. Facing higher rents, a benefits freeze and impossible choices about what bills to pay, evictions have reached record levels and put families under enormous strain.
“Tenants told us about the misery and insecurity they face. The Government has made welcome moves to offer renters more protection. But it is intolerable that over 100 families a day are losing their homes. The Government must act now and take immediate action on housing costs. This means lifting the freeze on Housing Benefit.”
Anne Baxendale, director of campaigns and policy at Shelter, said: “We are deeply concerned that the current freeze on Housing Benefit is piling a huge amount of pressure onto thousands of private renters who are already teetering on the brink of homelessness.
“For those hit by the freeze, Housing Benefit is falling far short of the gap between the cost of sky-high private rents and people’s incomes which don’t keep up. We hear from struggling families and people in low paid jobs right across the country who are being denied the essential top-up they need to afford their rent and keep hold of their home.
“That’s why we’re calling on the Government to abandon the freeze and prevent more people from facing the trauma of losing their home. And, if they really want to cut the Housing Benefit bill in the long-term, they need to urgently focus on building more high-quality homes that people on lower incomes can actually afford to live in without needing support.”
Anna Clarke, author of the report, said: “Alongside the difficulties caused by evictions, our research highlights the complete lack of options people on low incomes face when they lose their home. Greater protection from eviction is needed, but affordable, secure alternatives are too so people do not face even more stress and costs when they are forced to move.”