More renters face losing their homes as court claims to remove them gather pace after the height of the pandemic. Social and private landlords lodged 19,033 repossession claims with courts across England and Wales in the three months to March, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures show.
That was nearly triple the 6,376 made in the same period of 2021, although it was still down from 24,320 in early 2020, largely before Covid-19 affected court proceedings. However, the number of claims made by private landlords has now topped pre-pandemic levels, with 6,447 made in the three months to March.
That was well over double the number recorded in the equivalent period the previous year (2,832) and above the same three months of 2020 (5,884) and 2019 (6,265). The 6,520 claims by social landlords – including councils and housing associations – were also more than double the 2,542 logged a year earlier but were still far below pre-pandemic levels.
The number of tenants being turfed out of homes has increased massively over the last year following eviction bans put in place to protect people from Covid-19. There were 3,763 repossessions by county court bailiffs in the three months to March, compared to just 269 a year earlier, though that was still nearly half the 6,903 recorded in 2020.
Matt Downie, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said it was simply unacceptable that the UK Government was allowing thousands of people to be forced from their homes. He said: “While families across the country battle to keep roofs over their heads, government inaction over the spiralling costs of energy, rent and food is causing more and more people to be sucked into this crisis.”
The MoJ data also shows landlords made 6,066 so-called no-fault eviction claims between January and March – six times the number a year earlier (1,002) and around 40% more than 4,317 in 2020.
Section 21 notices allow landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason for doing so, and renters are given eight weeks’ notice. The Government first committed to scrap no-fault evictions in April 2019, but according to research by housing charity Shelter, nearly 230,000 private renters in England have been served one since then.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The Government promised renters three times that it will introduce a Renters’ Reform Bill to scrap unfair Section 21 no-fault evictions. Now, it must get the job done as every minute wasted puts another renter at risk.”
A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “These new statistics show that overall landlord possession claims remain lower compared to pre-pandemic levels. Our Renters Reform Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, will deliver a radically fairer deal for renters, including abolishing Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.
“The Government understands the pressures people are facing with the rising cost of living and are providing a £22 billion package of financial support alongside action to support families and help renters stay in their homes.”