A ban on evictions was put in place during the pandemic to protect vulnerable tenants but those measures were lifted last summer and evictions are rising.
People and politics correspondent
Thursday 24 February 2022 12:35, UK
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Thousands of renters could lose their homes in the coming months as the cost-of-living crisis deepens, according to figures.
A ban on evictions was put in place during the pandemic to protect vulnerable tenants but those measures were lifted last summer and evictions are rising.
Since then, councils have evicted more than 1,000 tenants from local authority-owned or managed properties because of rent arrears, according to figures obtained by Sky News under the Freedom of Information Act.
That is nearly four households each day.
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The real number is likely to be far greater than this, as most former council properties are managed by housing associations, who are not obliged by law to publish eviction figures.
More than 14,000 landlords started court proceedings to evict tenants from their properties between October and December 2021, according to the Ministry of Justice.
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‘I just went into shock and sheer panic’
Sarah lives in Poole, Dorset with two of her three daughters.
In January, the 54-year-old single mother was served with a section 21 notice, meaning she had to find another home with two months of receiving the letter.
She had done nothing wrong, but the landlady wanted the property back and threatened to evict them if the family did not move in time.
“I came home one day and on the doormat was a hand-delivered letter. I almost immediately knew because nobody hand-delivers letters to me.
“I read it and my heart sank. I just went into shock and sheer panic about where on earth are we going to live?”*
With fuel bills set to rise, inflation at its highest point in almost 30 years and private rental prices increasing, Sarah worries she will not be able to afford to find somewhere else to live.
“The kind of rents we are looking at might be affordable now but what if bills rise so much that we can’t afford the rent? We’ll be back in the same position.
“It makes me so angry that as a country we have allowed a huge proportion of our society to end up living in this level of insecurity. It needs to change.”
The government says it will ban Section 21 notices as part of its plans to level up Britain.
The new legislation would create open-ended tenancies, with landlords being required to provide a “concrete, evidenced reason” for bringing the tenancy to an end.
Despite this, the picture is growing increasingly stark.
Almost one million families on low incomes in England are paying rents they cannot afford in the private sector and almost half are families with children, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The government has announced a package of measures to help families cope with the rise in their bills.
Around 80% of households will get a £150 council tax rebate and all families will get a £200 loan to help with electricity bills.
Around £65m has already been given to councils in England to support low-income earners in rent arrears.
‘It has never been as bleak as this’
Meanwhile, grassroots charities providing support and debt advice are reporting higher than ever demand.
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“I am exceptionally worried – and I have been in this industry for over 26 years,” says Sylvia Simpson, chief executive at Leeds-based charity Money Buddies.
“It has never been as bleak as this. We have lots of clients coming to us saying they have had an eviction notice, the bailiffs are knocking on the door, they are in debt and they can’t cope.
“It’s fine saying we will give people £150 rebate on the council tax. People don’t get £150 rebate because council tax is going up, so it’s not really £150.
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“And the government is putting everybody into £200 debt. So come October, everybody has to pay £200 back to their utility suppliers over the next five years.
“I’m exceptionally angry because I think the government could intervene and do more.”
* After viewing several properties in her area, Sarah found a new place to live. It is the fifth home she has rented in nearly 10 years.
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