Number of rental sector tenant evictions up in England and Wales
The number of households evicted from rental accommodation in England and Wales rose by 5% in the first three months of the year, while the repossession rate for home owners fell to a record low.
Seasonally adjusted figures from the Ministry of Justice show there were 10,732 repossessions of rented homes by bailiffs between January and March 2016, up from 10,253 in the final three months of 2015.
The number of tenants evicted from their homes by bailiffs reached a record high in 2015, according to official figures for England and Wales, which shows that 42,728 households in rented accommodation were forcibly removed.
Housing campaigners blamed welfare cuts and the shortage of affordable homes for the rise in repossessions over the year and more than half the evictions are thought to have been by private landlords.
These figures are echoed by a new report from online letting agent PropertyLetByUs which shows that a quarter of landlords have served an eviction notice to tenants over the last 12 months and 5% have pursued an eviction through the courts. Furthermore, almost half of landlords have also experienced rent arrears over the last 12 months.
‘Landlords are increasingly facing rent arrears, as rent escalation continues to outstrip gross income. They are also facing a financial squeeze due to restrictions on their tax breaks and some may be raising rents to supplement their income. Pushing up rent rises further will put huge pressure on those tenants who are already struggling to pay their rent. We may well see evictions continuing to rise over the next few months,’ said Jane Morris, managing director of PropertyLetByUs.
She pointed out that the statistics highlight the need for landlords to protect their rental income and ensure they carry out thorough references with all new tenants. ‘Times are very tough for many tenants and demand for rental accommodation is soaring in many parts of the UK. Landlords need to extra vigilant when they take on a new tenant. But a few simple checks will help identify if a tenant is in a good financial position or not,’ she added.
Meanwhile, changes to the process of accelerated possession through applying to use High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) to evict a tenant has brought an end the so called seven day eviction which were misleading for landlords as well as increased costs, according to legal experts, Landlord Action.
The majority of residential possession claims are dealt with in the county court and enforced by county court bailiffs. However, with a backlog of cases and a reduction of bailiffs leading to longer waiting times in some courts, it can take several weeks for bailiffs to carry out an eviction, which is longer than most landlords wish to wait when suffering further loss of rent.
In some cases, landlords can apply for their case to be transferred to the High Court once a possession order has been made, so that an HCEO can carry out the eviction, generally a much quicker process.
However, with district judges seeing an increasing number of such applications, the Ministry of Justice has changed the process for obtaining Writs of Possession, adding a further two steps to the application process and an additional £200 fee. Some firms have built a business on advertising the seven day eviction which Landlord Action argues was always extremely misleading for landlords.
‘This was only ever possible from the point a case was transferred up to the High Court and not from when a landlord instructed an eviction firm,’ said Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action. However, even this has now changed as the added administration and waiting for approval could add a further six to eight weeks in some eviction cases, he pointed out.
The process now involves an application using N244 form to the issuing County Court for permission to transfer up to the High Court for enforcement, at which point a fee of £100 is payable. Following that, a further application to the High Court or District Registry for permission to issue a Writ of Possession with the N244 form, at which point there is a court fee of £100 payable.
Once permission has been granted to issue the High Court Writ of Possession, yet another application is required using form PF92 for an Order for Permission to Issue a writ of possession in the High Court.
In addition, all parties must now be notified of the application, which needs to be evidenced by a witness statement. This must confirm that each and every person in actual possession has been given notice, in writing, of the application, and that no application for relief has been made by any such person. A further step not previously required.
Landlord Action uses Court Enforcement Services (CES) to provide the fastest route to High Court Enforcement. Although not previously required, the process of informing occupants of a landlord’s intension to transfer to the High Court is something which Landlord Action has carried out through working with CES for some time. Despite this, Court Enforcement
‘The recent change to the process was brought about by some firms bypassing the correct procedure and using the incorrect forms. Previous practices of using the N293a form was incorrect, as this form is only intended for trespassers. The Civil Procedure Rules, Rule 83.13, requires all occupants to be notified of the application to transfer proceedings to the High Court for enforcement,’ said Daren Simcox, joint managing director of Court Enforcement Services.
‘Under the new process, there must be an application to the issuing county court for permission to transfer up. The application turnaround is dependent on the issuing court and their work load. This will add additional time to the eviction process,’ he explained.