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JRF highlights sharp increase in poverty, evictions and forced moves.

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Over 40,000 tenants were evicted from their homes across England and Wales by landlords in 2015; an increase of a third since 2003 and the highest level recorded, according to the latest available figures in research conducted by Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

A new report, published this month by JRF -‘Poverty, evictions and forced moves’, explores this rapid increase in evictions in England and Wales over the last 12 years, querying whether tenants felt forced to move from their homes due to

  • problems of affordability,
  • the condition of the property, or
  • disputes with their landlord.

JRF highlights that the increase in repossessions in recent years has been almost entirely due to the increasing use of ‘no fault’ evictions, whereby landlords are able to evict a private tenant after the end of the fixed term without giving a reason, and without any wrongdoing on the part of the tenant. Crucially, the report also highlights that the number of tenants evicted by private landlords exceeded the number evicted by social landlords for the first time in 2014.

Benefit rates are not keeping pace with rental increases

JRF identifies that tenants on low incomes receive benefits that often do not pay market rents, leaving them to pay significant monthly shortfalls between housing benefit and rent costs. This ultimately leads to affordability issues which in turn lead to eviction or a tenancy not being renewed. Housing benefit is, therefore, no longer a safety net for low income households in many parts of the country.

Importantly, JRF states that the cumulative impact of freezing Local Housing Allowance (LHA) or permitting only below–inflation increases has meant that the LHA now sits significantly below the 30th percentile of market rents, meaning that tenants in receipt of housing benefit are either squeezed into the bottom end of the market or are forced to make up the difference from other income.  Noting that this can leave tenants unable to afford homes in the private rented sector, and with limited options if evicted, JRF calls on the government to end the freezing of local housing allowance rates and to uprate housing benefit in line with local rents.

Time to lift the freeze on housing benefit?

Commenting on the report, chief executive of JRF Campbell Robb 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.’

We are delighted to announce that Brian Robson, Policy and Research Manger with JRF, will be speaking at Housing Rights annual Private Rented Sector conference on November 15. If you'd like to be added to the mailing list for this conference, please let us know.

Tagged In

Benefits, Outside NI, Private Tenancies, Welfare Reform