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Monday, 14 July 2014

38% increase in private sector evictions

Growing numbers of private sector tenants are turning to Citizens Advice after facing eviction despite being up to date with their rent, the national charity has revealed. The charity has seen a 38 per cent increase in issues caused by people without rent arrears being threatened with eviction from a private sector rented home. People came to bureaux for help with more than 5,000 issues caused by the problem in 2013/14, up from 3,750 the year before.

People who struggle to find the money can face serious problems. Eviction by private landlords is the most common cause of homelessness for CAB clients, causing one in 10 of the 80,000 problems with homelessness which Citizens Advice Bureaux saw in the last year. Problems in London and the South East are particularly acute, as twice as many people came to Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) with the problem in the first three months of 2014. Bureaux in the regions dealt with 900 problems caused by people being evicted without having run up arrears in January to March 2014, compared to 400 issues during the same period in 2013.

People report that they are being evicted because:
  • The landlord wants to sell their home
  • Rents are hiked to unaffordable levels
  • They have asked their landlord to carry out repairs.
Some people are being given notice when they inform their landlord that their circumstances have changed and they have moved on to housing benefit, even if they have not fallen behind with their rent. The increasing trend of evictions coincides with rises in house prices. During January to March 2014 house prices rose by 18 per cent in the capital and 10 per cent in the South East, compared with January to March 2013. This was mirrored by a rise in the number of people who sought help from Citizens Advice when they were threatened with eviction despite being up to date with rent, which more than doubled, in the first three months of 2014, compared to the first three of 2013.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Tenants are being treated as cash cows as a chronic housing shortage pushes up prices and forces renters out of their homes. Competition for properties means that tenants are easy to replace, increasing insecurity for people trying to create a home in the private rented sector. We see people who will be forced to move away from work, school or family and friends, which can ramp up commuting and childcare costs or disrupt children's education. We desperately need more new homes to tackle Britain's woefully inadequate housing supply. Until this happens, we'll continue seeing evictions rocket as tenants are left at the mercy of rising rents and insecure tenancies."

If they are evicted, tenants have no choice but to find hundreds of pounds for a deposit and advance rent plus an average of £350 in letting fees, sometimes just a few months after paying out for the original property. As well as problems caused by rising prices, tenants are coming to Citizens Advice because landlords are unfairly keeping hold of deposits, refusing to carry out repairs or are harassing their tenants. Over the past year, June 2013 to May 2014, 150,000 people sought advice on renting from a private landlord on the charity's website, a 13 per cent increase on the year before.

In the North East, where house prices rose six per cent in 2013/14, CAB saw 52 problems with evictions without arrears in the first three months of the year, up from 40 in January to March 2013. In Yorkshire and the Humber, which also saw price increases of six per cent, CAB saw 72 problems in the first three months of 2014, up from 28 the year before.