Commenting on quarterly landlord possession statistics released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Paul Shamplina, Founder of Landlord Action, a firm which specialises in dealing with problem tenants, says that despite an overall 5% fall in possession claims issued at county courts in 2014 versus 2013, he believes the figures are skewed by a more lenient approach taken by social landlords, and that the continued rise in accelerated possession cases which are at a 15 year high, indicate the severity of the UKs housing shortage.
Social landlord possession claims (those made by councils and housing associations, mainly for rent arrears and anti-social behaviour) have fallen by 10,500 in the last year, whilst private landlords seeking hearings before judges have only fallen marginally by 629, but accelerated cases have risen by nearly 2000 to 36026. Commenting on this, Paul Shamplina says “I’m surprised by these figures for the social housing sector, given the recent introduction of the bedroom tax, cuts in housing benefit and welfare reforms. Perhaps the directive to the social housing sector was to not be as aggressive during this period of transition.”
Accelerated claims have risen consistently for the last 5 years, in line with growth in the PRS and the drastic housing shortage, but 2014 also saw the highest annual figure of cases since the accelerated possession claims process started in the court system. Consistent with figures releases by the MoJ, Landlord Action has seen a significant shift in the number of landlords choosing to take the Section 21 accelerated possession route (for a quicker eviction) instead of using a Section 8 for possession only. According to Landlord Action, this used to be weighted 30/70 in favour of Section 8, but is now closer to 40/60. However, Landlord Action still maintains they have had very few cases relating to “Retaliation Eviction”, a total contradiction to the figures shelter quoted of 213,000 tenants being evicted by landlords because they complained about disrepairs.
“There is an amalgamation of reasons for this but our research suggests the two most common motives are an increase of landlords wishing to exit the PRS, both to cash in on capital appreciation and because they feel that letting property has become too shrouded in red tape. Secondly, landlords are being forced down this route by tenants remaining in properties on instruction by local authorities, who will not re-house tenants who have “voluntary” made themselves homeless”. Cases like this are at the highest level since we started in 1999 and this obviously shows the severity of the housing crisis we have. According to English Heritage figures, last year 120,000 fewer houses were built than the estimated 245,000 needed” says Mr Shamplina.
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