StepChange comments on new landlord possession statistics

Today’s Ministry of Justice data show numbers of landlord court actions and orders remain supressed since March 2020, with a significant increase in the proportion of private landlords seeking eviction of tenants through the courts, up from 21% of claims in July-September 2019 to 43% of claims in the same quarter of this year.

The recently announced £65m fund specifically to support renters in arrears is very welcome and will be crucial to ensuring that these evictions remain low.

StepChange hopes to see the Government monitor how these funds are disbursed and will look to support local authorities to ensure availability of funds is well signposted to those who are struggling. Polling undertaken by the charity earlier this year underlines the importance of this, revealing that among those who experienced a fall in income during the pandemic, 9% accessed local support such as a grant from a local authority or a foodbank while 45% borrowed to make ends meet (see notes to eds 2).

Looking further ahead, affordability and security for renters must remain a priority for the Government. Its plans for rent reform are an opportunity to improve protections for private renters who have long drawn the short straw. It is important that in striking the right balance between the rights of renters and landlords, any new rules to not lend themselves to greater financial precarity in the private rented sector.

Richard Lane, Director of External Affairs at StepChange, said: “The fact landlord evictions remain low is a positive sign. It’s now important that the recent £65m fund created by the Government to help renters in arrears is efficiently disbursed to keep things that way. We will seek to work with local authorities and the housing sector to ensure that those who are eligible for assistance can access it.

“However, a further increase on today’s figures can’t be ruled out. StepChange’s research has consistently highlighted renters as one of the groups most likely to have faced a prolonged loss of income or experienced a negative financial impact due to the pandemic.

“With cost of living pressures set to weigh heavy on households over the winter months, it’s therefore important the Government carefully monitors court possession activity to assess the need for further funding. Its priority must be to prevent a continued increase in evictions and homelessness arising from pandemic-induced rent arrears.”