Concern over rise in tenant evictions in ‘dysfunctional’ housing market

28 July 2017

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RISING rates of evictions are evidence that the lower end of the housing market is “dysfunctional”, with the balance of power in favour of the landlord, concludes a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The report Poverty, Evictions and Forced Moves, by researchers at the University of Cambridge, found that more than 40,000 tenants were evicted from homes by landlords in 2015 — one third more than in 2003. “Many more felt forced to move . . . due to problems of affordability, the condition of the property, or disputes with their landlord.”

The report concludes that the main driver in the growth in evictions is the growth of the private rented sector, which has almost doubled over the period, and now houses an increasing proportion of low-income households. In 2014, evictions in the private sector overtook those by social landlords, for the first time.

Most privately renting tenants have shorthold tenancies, which can be ended after the initial fixed term without the landlord, having to give any reason. The report says that the increase in repossessions has been “almost entirely due” to the increasing using of these “no fault” evictions. Almost two-thirds of these evictions in London.

Data from the English Housing Survey suggests that just under a quarter of current tenants reported that their last move from private property was forced in some way — they often reported that their landlord wanted to sell or use the property — and not because they wanted to move.

“Landlords can be very selective about who they allow in their properties,” the report says. “Tenants are constrained to remain in low-quality housing.”

The report draws attention to the freeze on local housing allowance rates, or limiting the increase to below inflation. “As more people become homeless, they approach overstretched local authorities for help. Yet local authorities cannot find affordable accommodation locally.”

The researchers interviewed 145 people who had been evicted or forced to move. Half had been subject to “no fault” evictions. Most had had “extreme difficulties” finding somewhere new to live, owing to landlords not being prepared to rent to those on housing benefit, and the lack of accommodation covered by housing-benefit rates. A survey by the charity Shelter found that 42 per cent of landlords refused to let to housing-benefit claimants. Eighteen of the interviewees were homeless, and 24 were in temporary accommodation provided by councils, where “the insecurity and lack of sufficient space was extremely stressful.” Some had lost custody of their children.

Among the recommendations is an increase in housing benefit and more social housing.

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