Tagged: private landlords

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

Millionaire Private Landlords Abusing Britain’s Welfare System, Says GMB

Greedy private landlords are raking in billions of pounds of public money in housing benefits payments, new research shows.

Freedom of Information Requests by the GMB union reveal that private landlords received a staggering £9,296 billion in housing benefit in 2013/14.

GMB says this abuse of Britain’s welfare system has been allowed to go on for far too long. Millionaire landlords are exploiting low-income families in need of housing and who could otherwise be left homeless.

There are 4.2 million households living in private rented accommodation in Britain. 1.59 million of these (38%) pay part or all of their rent using housing benefit.

More people now rent privately than from councils and housing associations. The switch away from cheaper social housing to the more expensive private sector has resulted in an increase in private tenants claiming housing benefit.

The Conservatives have pledged to open up social housing to buy-to-let private landlords. This could reduce an already dwindling social housing stock and further increase the housing benefit bill.

GMB has named and shamed twenty private landlords abusing Britain’s welfare system. These include:

  • Private landlord Mr Mohammed Taj was paid £3,219,858 of taxpayer’s money direct as housing benefits by Watford in 2013/14.
  • Investing Solutions Ltd was paid £2,239,915 by Merton, Brent, Lambeth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing and Wandsworth councils.
  • Thorney Bay Park Ltd was paid £1,924,226 by Castle Point council in 2013/14.
  • Mr Alastair Kerr was paid £1,616,951 by Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham and Hounslow in 2013/14.

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said:

“This research lifts the lid on the mainly secret payments to landlords who are the real winners from Britain’s welfare system.

“We see taxpayers cash subsidising buy-to-let empires with £9.2 billion of hard earned taxpayer’s cash paid into private landlords’ bank accounts – much of it ending up in tax havens.

“The abuse of housing benefit by private landlords has gone on for too long.

“Millionaires take sackloads of cash for exploiting those in housing need or stuck on low pay. It’s incredible that the Tories want to extend this billions pound rip off.

“It’s time to close the offshore tax dodgers charter, cap rents and use the billions being sucked up by property speculator landlords to build affordable homes for people again.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly, 28 Apr 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/millionaire-private-landlords-abusing-britains-welfare-system-says-gmb/

Government changes a boost for rogue landlords

Councils could lose powers to clampdown on rogue landlords under new government reforms.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes has slammed government plans to revoke local authorities’ ability to introduce selective licensing of privately rented homes.

Since 2004, councils have had powers to regulate private landlords in areas of low housing demand or significant anti-social behaviour.

In March 2010, rules were relaxed granting councils greater powers.

Now, to avoid a ‘blanket licensing approach’, the government is wrestling back control and Coun Forbes argues this hinders the council’s ability to help residents.

He said:

“It is taking away our abilities as a local democracy. It makes it harder to tackle the problems in some areas of the city.

“Government has created an extra hurdle to jump before we can tackle the issue.

“Despite all of the talk around devolution, central government stripped away important powers from local councils. We have lost the ability to respond to residents.”

The government argue reforms will help councils focus their enforcement where it is needed most and stop good landlords being punished.

But the Labour leader of the council accused Whitehall of being influenced by the powerful private landlord lobby.

He said:

“Up to now local authorities have had the ability to introduce selective licensing successfully, wherever there has been a problem.

“Now the government has taken away that power and forced us to beg for the ability to do it. I can only assume government has been lobbied by the vested interests of private sector landlords.

“There are some really good private landlords but there are some terrible ones. Some privately rented properties end up becoming eyesores, and a blight on otherwise clean streets.

“It’s one of the things people consistently complain about and it is important we are able to licence these properties to ensure the safety of tenants.”

Bruce Haagensen, local representative for National Landlords Association, believes selective licensing has failed in the city.

He said:

“The NLA is fully behind efforts to improve the standard of housing in Newcastle and believe that selective licensing when carried out properly and fully resourced is a useful tool for councils to use.

“However this does not seem to be the case in Newcastle.

“The existing scheme has not achieved sustainable tenancies, improved prices or the reduced the number of empty houses and after consulting with interested parties (landlords, tenants, businesses and others in the community) it was found that over 60 per cent suggested there had been no change during the scheme; essentially the scheme has failed.”

The city currently has two selective licensing schemes in Benwell and Byker which have been running since September 2010 and March 2011 respectively.

Landlords have been hit with massive fines for failing to apply for the correct licences.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Apr 2015

Hartlepool : Forcing bad landlords to clean up their act

A scheme to force bad housing landlords to clean up their act will be introduced after being approved by councillors.

A Selective Licensing scheme will see private landlords in 13 Hartlepool streets require a licence to operate.

It aims to clamp down on nuisance tenants and drive up housing standards for 544 properties.

There were calls from councillors and members of the Public for more streets to be included in the Hartlepool Borough Council scheme.

But officers warned they should only include streets where there was evidence to show there were problems to protect them from a potential judicial review by private landlords.

The council included streets where at least 50 per cent are privately rented and there was a repeat antisocial behaviour rate of 15 per cent.

Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration, said:

“If you’ve got bad landlords and bad management agents who don’t do proper reference checking and bung anybody in you end up with problems such as antisocial behaviour and drug dealing.

“This is all about driving up standards.”

He added selective licencing has worked in other areas of the town and elsewhere in the country.

The streets that will be the subject of the new five-year scheme are Cornwall Street, Kimberley Street, Richmond Street, and Rydal Street in the Burn Valley ward. In Foggy Furze ward it includes Borrowdale Street and Sydenham Road.

Five streets in Victoria Ward of Dent Street, Furness Street, Sheriff Street, Straker Street, and Stephen Street.

Burbank Street and St Oswald’s Street are also included in the Headland and Harbour and Jesmond wards.

Julie Rudge, secretary of the Dent and Derwent Street Residents’ Association said she was disappointed other streets around Dent Street were not included.

“I know there are issues in streets you are taking out,” she said.

Councillor Carl Richardson said residents of Belk Street also wanted to be included.

Councillor Pam Hargreaves said: “Picking out one or two streets makes it toothless.”

Officers agreed provide details of other streets that could be included if they lowered the criteria standards at the next meeting.

Source –  Hartlepool Mail,  19 Jan 2015

Private Tenants ‘should get new rights’

Tenants of private landlords should be given new rights to stay in their home as long as they please as well as guarantees that their rent will not increase above inflation, a think tank has argued.

Civitas said that a new regulatory regime is needed in the private rental sector to prevent landlords exploiting the shortage of homes to choose from at the expense of both tenants and taxpayers.

The growing private rented sector is expected to account for more than one third of the UK’s housing stock by 2032 and, at present, two-fifths (40 per cent) of private tenants’ incomes are typically taken up by their rent.

An increasing lack of affordability in the sector is being reflected in an increasing housing benefit bill for taxpayers, the report said.

The number of private renters needing housing benefit to meet their costs has more than doubled in the past decade, from 722,000 in 2003/4 to 1.7 million in 2013/14. This figure is forecast to reach 1.85 million in 2018/19, according to the Future of Private Renting report.

The document also said that the amount of housing benefit rent subsidies claimed in the private rented sector has more than doubled in real terms over the last 10 years, from £3.9bn in 2003/4 to £9.5bn in 2013/14, and is set to top £10bn in 2018/19.

The report said that while these sums are vital for growing numbers of low-income households with little choice but to rent privately, they are also creating a “vicious circle” by helping to prop up the rent inflation that they are meant to alleviate.

In areas with very high numbers of claimants, this could give landlords the opportunity to set their rents at artificially high levels, in line with the local housing allowance, the report said.

The report argued that the private sector should be required to offer indefinite tenancies “as the norm”. And once an initial rent has been agreed, index-linked ceilings on rent rises would give renters the security they need, it argued.

Daniel Bentley, author of the report, said:

“As private renting grows it is important to ensure that it offers a fair deal to those who have little choice but to rely on it.

 “Unfortunately the housing benefit system, which effectively props up purchasing power at the lower end of the market, militates against fair prices by subsidising landlords’ rent demands.

“This vicious circle will only worsen as the private rented sector comes to represent an ever-larger proportion of the housing market and more and more tenants have to fall back on housing benefit.”

Civitas said that exceptions to rent ceilings could be made in cases where a property has genuinely been improved.

Landlords who buy new-build homes would also be exempted from the regulatory regime, but they would be encouraged to enter similar voluntary agreements.

The report said that at present, the vast majority of landlords invest in existing homes rather than new-build, with this added competition for homes helping to push up prices and crowd out first-time buyers.

Mr Bentley said new regulations would not necessarily spell an exodus of private landlords, “many of whom have invested to capitalise on rising house prices and are influenced in their investment decisions by a much broader range of factors”.

He said: “Future landlord investment must be nudged towards new-build rather than being encouraged to buy up existing owner-occupied homes.”

Source –  Northern Echo,  02 Jan 2015

Landlord ordered to pay almost £1,000 after leaving tenant without heating for three months during winter

A Stockton landlord must pay almost £1,000 after leaving his tenant without heating last winter.

Vivender Nath Blaggan left the house in Northcote Street, in Stockton, with a faulty boiler for three months during the coldest part of the year.

The 47-year-old, of Grange Road, in Stockton, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an abatement notice issued under section 80 the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and was fined £350, ordered to pay costs of £609.17 and a victim surcharge of £35.

The tenant contacted Stockton Council in January 2014 after repeatedly asking Mr Blaggan to arrange for its repair, when the heating failed in November 2013.

The council’s private sector housing team carried out an inspection at the property which confirmed there was a problem with the gas boiler.

The council served a notice served under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which gave Mr Blaggan a chance to carry out the necessary repairs.

However he failed to comply with the notice so the boiler was repaired by the council and legal action was taken, Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard.

In mitigation Mr Blaggan said that he had put temporary measures in place and provided the tenant with a fan heater and offered to pay for the extra electricity it would cost to run it.

He also said that he had arranged for repairs to be carried out but that they only lasted one week.

He had been advised he could obtain a free replacement boiler, but unfortunately the funding had been withdrawn before that could be arranged.

Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety, Councillor Steve Nelson said: “We are serious about tackling the problem of poor housing conditions in the private rented sector and we take the health and safety of private tenants very seriously, where conditions are not met then action will be taken.

“We hope that this case will send a clear message to private landlords that they have a responsibility to ensure their properties meet the necessary standards and failure to do so will not be tolerated.”

Stockton Council works with private sector landlords to help maintain and improve properties and operates a Landlord Accreditation Scheme which offers advice and assistance.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  29 July 2014

More and more North East tenants forced from their homes as possession claims rocket

More and more tenants have been forced from their homes in the North after landlords took steps to take back their properties.

In parts of the region, possession claims have risen to their highest levels in over a decade – with the number rocketing by more than 70% in some areas in just a year.

MPs say they are are “deeply concerned” by the trend, and that for too long, in the face of a rising cost of living, “Generation Rent” has been forgotten.

Many households in the North are really struggling with the cost of living – and one of the most significant issues facing so many families across the region is housing costs, whether they rent or own their home,” said Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell, Labour’s shadow economic secretary to the treasury.

The steep increase in the number of tenants losing their homes across the North East is deeply concerning, but unsurprising in the face of rising household bills combined with falling real terms wages, and the prevalence of low-paid, insecure work for those who are in employment.

“Of course, many thousands across the region have been hit by the unfair bedroom tax, leaving many in rent arrears for the first time.

“For too long, those who rent their homes have been forgotten about – and this number is increasing.”

Nationally, the number of claims by private landlords were up 4.1% year on year in 2013/14, while social landlord claims rose 17.8%.

But in Middlesbrough private landlord claims jumped 71.1% – one of the biggest increases in England and Wales – and the number of both private (65) and social (573) landlord claims reached their highest levels since 2002/03.

The number of social landlord claims in Stockton-on-Tees also rose sharply, up 43.9%, from 253 in 2012/13 to 364 in 2013/14, while Northumberland also recorded its highest number of claims in more than a decade at 691.

These figures have been released just over a year since the bedroom tax was implemented,” Kevin Williamson, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said. “We have long warned of the stresses that the bedroom tax is placing people under, and housing associations are working hard to help their tenants.”

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council urged anyone affected by such proceedings to get in touch with their local authority, who may be able to offer support and advice.

Possession proceedings will only be taken by registered landlords as an action of last resort.

“We would urge anyone who finds themselves in a position where they may be in danger of losing their home to contact the council’s housing options team, who can offer advice and support,” he said.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle  11 May 2014

North East Labour MPs to rebel on welfare cap ?

Several North East MPs will either defy a party whip or not be at the House of Commons when Labour is told to vote in line with the coalition for a new cap on how much can be spent on state benefits.

Ed Miliband has told his MPs to back a Budget plan to cap welfare at £119bn, ending a situation in which benefit spending is increased to match the number of claimants.

While party leader Mr Miliband is keen to avoid looking soft on welfare, across the North East, MPs have called for the party to proudly stand up for low income families.

Easington MP Grahame Morris said he will not be voting for the cap. He told The Journal: “I cannot vote for the welfare cap. By implication it plays to the Tory strategy of divide and rule demonising those on benefits as the undeserving poor.

“It conveniently ignores the fact that two thirds of the welfare budget goes on pensions that people have contributed to during their working lives. Another substantial slice goes on supporting those in work on low wages.

“Once again Labour must differentiate its position from the Tories. It is shameful of the Tories to seek to set the working poor against the disabled. There are better, fairer ways to limit benefit spending for example by limiting the £20bn taxpayer spend on housing benefits which goes to private landlords through the introduction of rent controls.”

Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said he will not be in the Commons for the vote as a result of select committee business, but would not have voted for the cap.

He said: “Inherent in this is a further reduction in real terms of benefits over time. If the economy has another significant downturn this limits the capacity of the state to respond to genuine hardship.

“And let’s not forget that only about 3% of the benefits bill is for jobseekers’ allowance, the biggest single pot is for pensions.”

And Blaydon MP Dave Anderson also hit out at the plan. He said: “The welfare cap is just another piece of the Coalitions jigsaw to make the poor, the weak and the disabled pay for the failures of big business and global capitalism.

“This vote comes in the same week that Lloyds have been exposed as continuing to exploit customers over the disgraceful PPI misselling scandal. It is these rogues and many others like them who should be carrying the can for economic failure and not the most vulnerable in our country.”

It is thought other MPs will not be in Parliament for the vote, avoiding the need to rebel. Some 20 MPs nationally are thought to be ready to vote against the cap.

Labour has said that since much of the cap on spending does not include benefits linked to increased unemployment, it is happy to accept the changes.

The party has hit back at claims that there is little to differentiate its economic policy from the coalition, insisting a future Labour government would “make different choices”.

> It’s what the present Labour opposition is doing right now that really matters. And it doesn’t seem to be doing very much at all, apart from trying to make out it’ll be tougher on the poor than the current bunch.

Does ‘Red Ed’ really think that’s the way to win votes ?  If he does, he’s going to be disapointed.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, said Labour would support the Government when voting on the welfare cap, but insisted the party would also “take tough decisions” over future spending if in office after the General Election.

Source – Newcastle Journal, March 26 2014

Miners who ‘scabbed’ still get blanked in street

MINERS who broke the strike and “scabbed” can still expect to be blanked in the street 30 years on, according to a former union official.

Alan Cummings, 66-year-old former NUM lodge secretary in the ex-pit village of Easington Colliery, County Durham, explained: “People have long memories.

“There’s very few people talk to them and it split families. But we didn’t have a lot in this part.”

The strike held firm from March 1984 and the village pit which had 2,700 workers was lightly picketed. Then in August things changed.

A power loader named Paul Wilkinson from Bowburn, 10 miles away, was bussed in and hundreds of riot police made sure he got to work.

Mr Cummings, who still lives in a terraced house a stone’s throw from the former pit gates, said: “I have never seen as many police before in Easington.

“There’s only two ways into the village and it was completely blocked off. People couldn’t get in or out.

“After 6am there was vans and vans coming in. Pickets were called back from elsewhere and had to come across fields to get here. The atmosphere was really bad.”

Police and pickets fought through the day and serious disorder broke out when Coal Board property was smashed and cars wrecked.

Mr Cummings said the self-contained, isolated village had been law-abiding and needed little policing prior to the strike.

The treatment by officers – particularly those drafted in from South Wales and Lincolnshire – disgusted many locals, he said.

One striker received an out-of-court settlement of £5,000 for injuries he sustained in the protest, the ex-NUM official said. But it was a “hollow victory”.

“Miners’ wives and families in the street could not believe what went on – there was a sea-change in their attitude,” he said. “It’s been called a village under siege.”

The strike ended a little under a year after it began and the pit closed forever in 1993 – just short of 100 years since work began.

And Easington Colliery’s reliance on coal meant it was a disaster, Mr Cummings said.

“It’s been total devastation,” he said. “It’s my worst nightmare and I knew it was going to happen.”

Whereas the Germans planned pit closures in their coalfields, “here, they just wiped us out”.

The village had the second-highest percentage of colliery houses in the country and they were sold off to private landlords in the 1990s, bringing an influx of problem tenants and class A drugs.

Seemingly half the shops on Seaside Lane were shuttered and the working man’s club life, once so vibrant, was dying out.

Mr Cummings retained a passionate hate for Margaret Thatcher and did not care that the village’s celebration of her death last year upset some.

“What an epitaph she has in these mining communities: death, a lot of people have committed suicide, and no hope.

“All down to her, and some of her spawn that’s about now.”

But he also laid blame at the door of New Labour, which he said failed to make enough impact during its time in power.

Now those who have jobs work in call centres, for Railtrack, the Nissan plant at Sunderland or the Caterpillar plant in nearby Peterlee.

“But 99 per cent of them would come back to the pit if it was open,” he said.

Source – Shields Gazette,  03 Mar 2014

.

It turns out that benefits street is populated by rich people

Benefit tales

Wealthy private landlords are being exposed as the new face of the benefits scrounger taking Britain for a ride

Another day, another couple of front page headlines damning benefit scroungers. Except today? Today is different. The claimant-bashing Tory MP Peter Bone is apparently under investigation for an alleged housing benefit fraud relating to his mother’s care home costs. Over at the Mirror, the Queen and Prince of Wales are revealed to be reaping a fortune in publicly subsidised rent payments to their privately held property empires. I have to admit, for a snarky Guardian writer tasked with sharing First Thoughts on the day’s breaking news, this is all just too good to be true.

Bone, it must be stressed, fully denies the allegations, and legal formalities forbid comment. The Mirror’s scoop comes as part of an extensive research exercise with the GMB union and is gleaned from freedom of…

View original post 458 more words