Tagged: Campbell Robb

Tenant evictions reach six-year high amid rising rents and benefit cuts

The number of tenants evicted from their homes is at a six-year high, according to new figures, as rising rents and cuts to benefits make tenancies increasingly unaffordable.

County court bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months of 2015, an increase of 8% on the same period last year and 51% higher than five years ago.

The increase in the number of tenants losing their homes means 2015 is on course to break last year’s record levels. Nearly 42,000 families were evicted from rental accommodation in 2014, the highest number since records began in 2000.

Rental prices have soared in many UK cities but wages failing to keep pace with rising costs and caps to benefits have left many poorer tenants unable to make payments.

Separate figures also published on Thursday showed almost 59,000 households have had their benefits capped in the past two years. Nearly half of those families were in London, where the the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home is £2,216.

Housing charities said the figures were a glaring reminder that many tenants were struggling to maintain a roof over their heads, and they called on the new government to do more to tackle a housing crisis in the UK.

The latest repossession statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, reveal the highest number of evictions in a single quarter since 2009, when comparable records began, with nearly 126 families forced out every day.

Between January and March, 11,307 tenants and their families were evicted by bailiffs, compared with a figure of 10,380 between October and December last year, and 10,482 in the first quarter of 2014.

The record figure comes as the number of landlord repossession claims – the first step of the legal process leading to an eviction – also rose. Claims were up 10% on the last quarter, but at 42,226 they remained below a six-year high of 47,208 in the first quarter of 2014.

Claims by both private and social landlords were up, the figures showed, although most of the rise was explained by claims by the latter. Social landlords were behind nearly five times as many attempts to recover properties than private landlords, the figures showed. These landlords are typically housing associations providing homes at lower rents than the market rate, often to tenants who receive housing benefit.

In the first three months of the year, 64% of possession claims were made by social landlords. These 27,204 court actions came alongside 5,551 made by private landlords and 9,741 accelerated claims, which could have been by either social or private landlords.

In May 2014, when the threat of evictions reached its highest level for a decade, the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations across England, told the Guardian the bedroom tax was causing problems for social landlords. The policy cuts the amount of housing benefit paid to social housing tenants whose homes are deemed too large for their requirements. Benefit sanctions were also thought to be causing problems.

But many housing associations, particularly in London and the south-east, have turned out tenants as they have sought to redevelop generations-old estates to take advantage of the big rise in property values. This has in turn led to an increase in the number of grassroots campaigns to oppose evictions, such as the Focus E15 mothers.

In one case of eviction resistance last week, activists from Housing Action Southwarkand Lambeth in London answered a call from a 14-year-old girl to successfully resist her family’s eviction from a flat in an estate that Southwark council had marked for demolition. Elsewhere in the capital, shorthold tenants in Brixton’s Loughborough Park estate, owned by the Guinness Partnership housing association, have defied eviction orders by occupying their flats.

The MoJ figures came on the same day as the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that 58,690 households across the UK had their benefits capped to a maximum of £26,000 a year since April 2013. Londoners were the worst affected, with 26,636 families facing a cut in benefits over the period to February 2015, followed by 5,953 in the rest of the south-east.

DWP proposals to meet the Conservatives’ pledge to cut £12bn from the welfare budget, in documents leaked to the Guardian last week, included barring under-25s from claiming housing benefit, increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of tenants, limiting welfare payments by family size and freezing welfare benefits at current levels.

Responding to the eviction statistics, Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

“Today’s figures are a glaring reminder that sky-high housing costs and welfare cuts are leaving thousands of people battling to keep a roof over their heads.

“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact of a housing market at boiling point, with the cost of renting so high that many families are living in fear that just one thing like losing their job or becoming ill could leave them with the bailiffs knocking at the door.

“The new government must make sure people aren’t left to fall through the cracks and hurtling towards homelessness by preserving, if not strengthening, the frayed housing safety net to protect ordinary families desperately struggling to make ends meet.”

Betsy Dillner, director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said:

“These record eviction figures and signs that they are accelerating are a stark reminder of the housing crisis that the government must urgently start taking seriously now they’re back in power.

“Whether it’s an inability to pay expensive rents or a landlord’s desire to take back their property, the fact that more than 40,000 families were forced out of their homes last year is a symptom of the government’s failure to create a sustainable housing market.”

The housing minister, Brandon Lewis, defended the government’s performance, pointing out that mortgage repossessions had fallen drastically, keeping owner-occupiers in their “hard-earned homes”.

He said:

“Mortgage repossessions continue to fall at 56% lower than this time last year, and the lowest annual figure since the series began in 1987. Meanwhile, numbers of county court mortgage possession claims continue to fall to the lowest quarterly number since records began. This is thanks to our work to tackle the deficit and keep interest rates low, helping more families to stay in their hard earned homes.

“There are strong protections in place to guard families against the threat of homelessness. We increased spending to prevent homelessness, with over £500m made available to help the most vulnerable in society and ensure we don’t return to the bad old days when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today.”

Source – The Guardian,  14 May 2015

Shelter claims one in every 121 North East households at risk of homelessness

Families are “teetering on a financial knife-edge” with one in every 121 households in the North East at risk of homelessness, a charity claims.

Shelter says 140 children in the region will wake up homeless this Christmas, while 58 people are being put at risk of eviction or repossession every day.

Imagine the panic of receiving a notice through the door saying that you could lose your home – that’s the devastating reality for thousands of people every week,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter.

“The sky high cost of housing is making it harder and harder for families to keep a roof over their heads. And with the stakes so high, all it can take is one piece of bad luck to send a family spiralling towards homelessness.”

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that in the 12 months to the end of September there were more than 7,250 possession claims – the first stage in a court process which can end with the loss of a home – issued in county courts for homes in the North East.

Of those the highest number – 1,853 – were for properties in County Durham, followed by Newcastle (1,230) and Northumberland (1,016).

However, the highest proportion of homes on which possession orders were sought was in South Tyneside, where 938 orders were applied for – one for every 72 homes in the borough.

Councillor Allan West, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for housing, defended his authority’s approach to dealing with homelessness.

Following a review in 2013, South Tyneside Council developed a new homelessness strategy which made homeless prevention one of our key priorities,” he said.

“Our proactive approach means that we step in to prevent households becoming homeless before their case becomes critical.

“This is reflected in figures released recently by the Department for Communities and Local Government which highlighted that the number of times we intervened during 2013/14 was almost five times the national average.

“As a social landlord, we have an early intervention approach to rent arrears and nowhere has this been better demonstrated than in the award-winning work of our Welfare Reform Team which has enabled over 92% of tenants who wanted to keep their homes after the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ maintain those tenancies.

“Eviction is used as a last resort when all other methods of engagement and arrears collection have failed.

“Since quarter four of 2013 the number of mortgage possession claims in South Tyneside has reduced from 254 to 147 and evictions resulting from possession claims from Council tenancies have reduced from the same period last year.”

At the opposite end of the scale Sunderland had the lowest proportion of applications for possession orders, with 696 – one in every 172 homes – and Gateshead saw the fewest applications overall, with 652.

According to the MOJ, of the around 223,000 possession orders applied for nationally in county courts each year, just under 53,500 result in repossessions.

If the same was true on the regional level that could mean that around 1,740 North East families have had their homes taken off them in the 2013/14 period.

And as Christmas approaches Shelter is warning that continuing “sky-high” housing costs coupled to families having little or no savings to fall back on, mean that “just one thing, like a sudden illness, can be all it takes to tip a family into a downward spiral towards losing their home.”

Our advisers will be working non-stop this Christmas to support families who find themselves battling to keep their home – but our services are already over-stretched and we’re struggling to meet the demand, ” said Mr Robb.

“We desperately need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one is left to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas.”

To support Shelter’s emergency Christmas appeal please visit shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70060 to donate £3

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  02 Dec 2014

Homeless Families Forced To Live In ‘Unsafe’ Temporary Accommodation Soars To Five Year High

The number of homeless families housed in temporary accommodation across England has risen to a five-year-high, the latest figures show.

Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that 59,710 homeless households were living in temporary accommodation in England, including B&B’s, at the end of June 2014 – 6% higher than June 2013 and the highest level for five years.

The startling figures have been blamed partly upon a significant rise in the number of private sector tenants losing their homes, as landlords cash in on a resurgent housing market.

Charities raised concerns earlier this year about an apparent rise in the number of ‘revenge evictions‘ (This is Money).

30% of all homeless applications between 1 April and 30 June 2014 came from private sector tenants. The figure represents a 27% increase on the same quarter in 2013 and is the most common reason given by households for becoming homeless.

Gill Payne, director of policy and external affairs at the National Housing Federation, said:

This shocking rise in the number of families stuck in emergency housing is down to our desperate shortage of affordable homes.

“It’s completely unacceptable that we have thousands of people living in so-called temporary housing, including B&Bs, that are expensive, often in poor condition and offer no stability from which to rebuild their lives.”

Figures also show that the number of homeless families with children housed in bed and breakfasts (B&B’s) has risen by 2% to 2,130 by the end of June 2013. The number of households without children living in B&B’s increased by 6% to 4,600.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

Behind every one of these shocking statistics stands a person or a family who’s gone through the tragedy of losing their home. And what’s more worrying is that we know these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.”

Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications for Homeless Link, said:

The fact that so many people are being placed in temporary accommodation should send another clear signal that there is a desperate shortage of homes that are genuinely affordable to those in greatest need. The alternative of housing people in accommodation like B&Bs is not only unsafe, but is also expensive to taxpayers.”

13,140 households were accepted as being homeless in the second quarter of this year (1 April – 30 June 2014), 2% lower than the same time in 2013.

Source – Welfare News Service, 25 Sept 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/homeless-families-forced-live-unsafe-temporary-accommodation-soars-five-year-high/

3.4 Million Households Living On A ‘Financial Cliff-Edge’, Say Shelter

3.4 million households across the UK are living on a “financial cliff-edge”, where a small drop in income could cost them their homes, new figures reveal today.

Analysis of government data by the University of St Andrews, on behalf of the homeless charity Shelter, reveals that one in eight low-income families are living with unaffordable housing costs.

 Statistics also show that one in ten working families have been forced to sell possessions to pay the rent or mortgage.

Average rental costs in the UK currently stands at £694 a month but rents in London have soared to £1,412 a month – more than twice the national average.

Rent has also become less affordable in the South-west and South-east of England, where average income is 2.55 times and 2.93 times the median national average respectively.

Mum of two Lou, 42, works full-time but still struggles to cover housing costs.

“Even though I work every day and live in a small flat, the rent eats up so much money that it’s almost impossible to make do with what’s left over each month, and I can’t move because there’s nowhere else remotely near to work I could dream of affording”, she told Shelter.

I’ve had to borrow money off my friends and family to cover my rent, and I’m always making tough decisions on what I can and can’t afford for my youngest. Things have got so bad that I’ve even missed paying bills because I had to put food on the table, and that’s when the debts start to mount up.

“It’s such an uphill battle. I’ve faced losing my home before and I live in dread of having to go through that again. The idea of losing my job just doesn’t bear thinking about.”

The Housing Benefit bill for working families is set to soar by more than £1 billion by 2018. Years of lower than inflation wage rises, and the lowest ever levels of house building, have resulted in a rising number of households who are struggling to cover housing costs.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said:

Every day at Shelter we hear from people who, through no fault of their own, are finding it impossible to keep up with sky-high housing costs. It’s terrifying to think that many of us are resorting to avoiding bills or selling possessions in a desperate bid to make ends meet.

“The government must make sure families who are already battling to keep their heads above water don’t slip through the growing holes in our safety net, and into a downward spiral which could result in the loss of their home.”

Source – Welfare News Service, 09 Sept 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/3-4-million-households-living-financial-cliff-edge-say-shelter/

Rogue Darlington landlord fined over 4ft bedroom

A rogue landlord has been fined more than £30,000 after letting a house that could have killed his tenants and which contained a bedroom with a ceiling less than four feet high.

An anonymous tip-off about the Darlington house uncovered potentially deadly hazards, overcrowding and inadequate living conditions.

Tenants at the house, in Station Road, were found sleeping on the floor and, in one case, in a bedroom without standing room.

The property’s owner, Darlington businessman Mizan Abdin, pleaded guilty to a number of offences relating to failure to comply with regulations, He was fined £32,070 during a hearing Darlington Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Tenants, described as vulnerable and exploited, are believed to remain at the property, where visible electrical cables still dangle from a front window.

The tip-off to Darlington Borough Council and the Border Agency uncovered an ‘appallingly dangerous’ property that posed a risk to the lives of its overcrowded tenants, a court was told.

Every room, bar the kitchen and bathroom, in the Station Road house was used as a bedroom – including a space just 1.1m high.

The lives of the six men living in the crowded terraced house were put at risk by the landlord’s blatant disregard of health and safety, according to housing officers.

Mizan Abdin pleaded guilty by post to 17 counts of failing to comply with regulations in respect of housing in multiple occupation and one of failing to have a licence to manage his property.

The 27-year-old entered no mitigation and did not attend Darlington Magistrates Court, where the case against him was heard yesterday.

Magistrates heard council officials inspected the house in May and found a catalogue of hazards, including a lack of smoke alarms, fire doors and safe windows.

Fire exits were obstructed, lighting was broken or missing, fittings were broken and waste water spilled into the backyard.

Abdin – of Corporation Road, Darlington – did not attend the inspection and failed to provide certificates proving that gas and electrical supplies and appliances were safe.

During an inspection in May this year, the property’s sole smoke alarm was broken and dangling from a wall while plug sockets were overloaded and light fittings left hanging.

Christine Selby, chairwoman of the bench, fined Abdin £32,070, saying: “This situation is appallingly dangerous and the state of this house could have led to injury or even, in the worst case, death.”

A resident living nearby said the property had a ‘regular rotation’ of ‘always male, always foreign‘ tenants.

He said: “There’s a high turnover of people living there and they’re being exploited, nobody deserves to live like that but some people will do anything for money.”

Following the conviction, Darlington Borough Council will now review the circumstances surrounding the property.

Councillor Chris McEwan said its tenants had been exposed to great risks and added:

This case demonstrates the problems faced by vulnerable tenants living in the private rented sector and quite clearly shows a landlord with no concern for the health and safety or welfare of his tenants.”

The council’s action against Abdin was praised by charity Shelter, which runs a rogue landlord campaign.

Chief executive Campbell Robb said:

“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact rogue landlords have on people’s lives, and we’ve been campaigning to urge government and councils to crack down on this small but highly dangerous minority who make people’s lives a misery.

“We are pleased to hear that Darlington Borough Council is committing to firm action against rogue landlords operating in their area and we urge other councils to follow Darlington’s lead and do everything in their power to crack down on the worst offenders in their area and stamp out rogue landlords for good.”

Source –  Northern Echo,  02 Sept 2014

Almost A MILLION Working Families Skipping Meals To Pay The Rent

Almost a MILLION working parents are being forced to skip meals so that they can afford to pay the rent or mortgage, shocking new figures reveal.

A survey by YouGov, on behalf of the housing charity Shelter, has revealed that more than one in ten working families are going hungry to pay housing costs, while over a third admit they have cut back on buying food.

Shelter surveyed 10,000 parents and found that 10.5% had been forced to skip meals, which is equivalent to 880,000 if they had asked every single working family in the UK.

36.7% said they had cut back on how much they spend on food and 12.9% had put off buying shoes for their children. 9.7% said they had delayed purchasing school uniforms.

Government figures show that households spend, on average, 28% of their total income on housing costs. This rises to 40% in the private rental sector.

Shelter highlights the story of Katherine and her husband who both have full-time jobs but still struggle to pay their mortgage. “My husband and I don’t have breakfast because we can’t afford it, and we miss evening meals two or three times a month to help with the mortgage”, Katherine said.

She added: “We’ve really had to cut back on the basics, and I even had to send our daughter to school in an old uniform that I knew was too small; it made me feel horrible. We are already at breaking point, so I honestly don’t know what we’d do if our financial situation got worse; it really frightens me.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

“No parent should be forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying for the roof over their children’s heads. These shocking figures show that millions of us are having to make these kind of agonising choices every day.

“Sky-high housing costs and cuts to support are leaving many families trapped on a financial knife-edge.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves said: “This report provides shocking new evidence of how the Tories’ cost of living crisis is hitting hard-working families.

“While David Cameron says the economy is fixed, people who put in the hours to provide for their children are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.”

The number of calls Shelter receives related to rent arrears has more than doubled in the last three years, and the majority of people regarded as living in poverty in the UK are in work.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

Housing costs have left some families standing on a financial cliff edge. Working households that have already cut back on spending to get by could find themselves in the red if interest rates go up.

“Citizens Advice research shows 3 in 5 households are worried about the impact of rising bills this year, with over half forced to cut spending to balance the books.

“The competing pressures of sky-high childcare bills, rising energy costs and wages which are consistently below inflation, mean many people are struggling to pay for the roof over their head.

“Citizens Advice dealt with nearly 87,000 social housing rent arrears problems last year, up 10 per cent from 2012.

“It is welcome news that more people are in work, putting more households in a position to get on top of their bills. However, with record numbers of people becoming self-employed and increased numbers of jobs with uncertain hours, families face increasing instability in their income.

“An interest rate rise would put some in a more precarious position, so any rise needs to be slow and steady in order for families to manage the extra cost.”

According to the latest figures, there has been a 19% rise in cases of malnutrition in the UK over the past twelve months. Food prices have risen by 12% in seven years, while average wages have only increased by 7.6% over the same period.

Tory Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Contrary to Shelter’s claims, repossessions are actually at their lowest since 2007 and down almost a third since last year.

“Our efforts to tackle the record deficit we inherited have helped keep interest rates at a record low, meaning home ownership is at its most affordable since 2007 while private rent levels are falling in real terms.”

Source – Welfare News Service,  28 Aug 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/almost-million-working-families-skipping-meals-pay-rent/

EVICTION HOTSPOT: 404 Hartlepool families face losing their homes

A staggering 404 families face losing their homes or being evicted for falling behind with their mortgage and rent payments.

Figures released by Shelter, the nationwide homeless charity, highlights Hartlepool as a “hotspot” where people are more likely to be evicted.

Over the last 12 months, a total of 404 court papers were issued to homes in Hartlepool where mortgage commitments had not been met.

Shelter’s study highlights the financial hardship facing many families struggling to make ends meet, with rising costs of living couples with high mortgage repayments leaving them “stretched to bursting point”.

A Citizens’ Advice Bureau chief says she isn’t surprised by the figures – and fears the situation could get worse before it gets better.

Janet Noble, training supervisor for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Hartlepool’s Park Road, said: “We deal with this issue on a daily basis, and people get into this situation for a variety of reasons.

“We have had cases where people have split up, and the husband will pay the mortgage for the first few months but then he gets his own place, and has his own living costs to meet.

“People lose their jobs and can’t afford their repayments, others may think they can afford the repayments but then when they interest rates change, they struggle.

“This is an ongoing issue, and with talk of the interest rate rising again, we could get more people with the same problem.

“It could get worse before it gets better.”

 “People do get lots of chances to get back on track, the eviction process doesn’t just happen overnight.

“The courts can allow arrears to be spread over a certain period of time to be repaid, and we can offer advice on how to put those proposals forward.

“The problem is when the letters and the warning are ignored, and it gets to the point where it is too late.”

The research, based on data recorded by the Ministry of Justice, found that in the last year more than 10,300 homes in the North-East were at risk of eviction or repossession, the equivalent of 28 every day.

It also identified the latest hotspots across the region where people are most likely to face losing their home, with South Tyneside and Newcastle topping the list with Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Darlington also faring badly.

Shelter carried out the survey after being inundated with requests for help from people at risk of losing their homes.

Since 2011, across the country the charity has seen the number of calls about mortgage arrears rose by nearly a fifth.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Each one of these will have had their lives turned upside down by this experience, as they faced seeing their home, the foundation of their life, ripped away from underneath them.

“Tragically we are seeing more and more people coming to us for help, people who have been struggling to make ends meet and then just one change of circumstances has pushed them spiralling towards homelessness.

“We urgently need people’s support so we can help more people in the North East avoid the nightmare of losing their home.”

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HOW DOES THE REPOSSESSION SYSTEM WORK?

Anyone who falls into arrears with their mortgage will initially be contacted by their lender to see if any arrangements can be made to catch up on payments.

If the account remains in arrears for a period of time without any payments being made, then the lender is likely to commence county court proceedings.

The court could make a suspended possession order if a suitable repayment plan which is acceptable to the lender is pit forward.

Homeowners at risk will then receive a letter notifying them there is a claim for possession of their property, and if the situation is still left unresolved then an eviction notice will follow.

This gives the homeowner a time and a date within a fortnight when bailiffs will attend the property to formally repossess it.

That notice will inform the residents that the property must be cleared of all personal possessions.

By this late stage of proceedings, usually only a payment of the full arrears stops the bailiffs taking possession.

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  14 Aug 2014