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Housing

Evictions tripled in the three months after ban ended

There were almost 5,000 landlord possessions in England and Wales between July and September – a 207 per cent increase on the previous three months.

The number of households facing eviction tripled in the three months after Covid protections to keep renters in their homes ended.

A total of 4,853 landlord possessions took place across England and Wales between July and September, according to Ministry of Justice figures. The stats represent a 207 per cent increase on the 1,582 in the previous three months when a ban on bailiff-enforced evictions was still in place. The bans ended in England on May 31 and in Wales on June 30.

While the figures are still 35 per cent lower than the same quarter before the pandemic in 2019, the impact of rising living costs and falling Covid-19 support such as the end of the £20 increase in universal credit and furlough could see evictions spike in the months ahead.

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The Big Issue has launched the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign calling for ‘no-fault’ evictions to be paused and renters’ arrears to be paid off to avoid a homelessness crisis. Following the release of the official figures both StepChange and Crisis warned of trouble ahead for renters.

“These figures make clear how damaging it was for the UK government to end the eviction ban without providing sufficient support for renters who had built up arrears in the pandemic,” said Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis.

“More and more people who lost their jobs and had their lives turned upside down are now being forced into homelessness. As more cases make their way through the courts, we sadly expect this to increase further still. “

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In total there were 10,202 possession claims issued with private landlords accounting for 4,373 claims compared to 3,681 by social landlords.

To tackle homelessness before it happens we need to prevent people falling into arrears in the first place

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis

Commenting on the data, government statisticians said they expect “the Covid-19 impact is likely to have washed out of the data” and added that “they expect a continued increase in volume across all actions as the courts continue to manage the backlog”.

The remaining 2,148 were accelerated claims lodged in the three-month period. That now means there has been more than 27,000 claims since Theresa May promised to axe section 21 evictions – which mean a landlord can evict without giving a reason – in April 2019.

A UK government white paper with reforms to replace the ‘no-fault’ evictions has now been delayed until next year but ministers did announce that £65m will be available for vulnerable renters to pay off arrears this winter.

Speaking at a Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee hearing this week, housing secretary Michael Gove said he “hoped the fund was enough”.

Gove told the committee: “I hope it will be enough and it is certainly the case that Shelter and others welcomed the additional funding. It’s not the only way that local authorities can help and not the means that we can use to deal with overcrowding, homelessness and the fragility of people who find themselves on reduced resources as a result of Covid.

“I hope it will be enough but I’m open minded about what other steps we might need to take.”  

Richard Lane, director of external affairs at StepChange, said the fund was “welcome” and would be “crucial” to ensure landlord evictions remain low.

Lane called on the government to monitor how local authorities disperse the cash and ensure the support is sign-posted to renters in need.

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“The fact landlord evictions remain low is a positive sign,” said Lane.

“However, a further increase on today’s figures can’t be ruled out. With cost of living pressures set to weigh heavy on households over the winter months, it’s therefore important the government carefully monitors court possession activity to assess the need for further funding.

“Its priority must be to prevent a continued increase in evictions and homelessness arising from pandemic-induced rent arrears.”

Sparkes added: “To tackle homelessness before it happens, we need to prevent people falling into arrears in the first place and that must include unfreezing housing benefit so it covers the true cost of renting.”

The Big Issue is working to prevent thousands of people hit by the pandemic from falling into homelessness in the months ahead through the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign. Sign our petition and find out how you can take action now here.

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