This drop in evictions comes despite the growth in tenants arrears. As recession-driven redundancies, and cuts to pay and bonuses, have taken their toll, thousands more tenants have fallen behind with the rent. In a National Landlords Association survey in October, 43% of landlords said they had tenants in arrears over the course of the previous 12 months.
Jonathan Moore of easyroommate.co.uk said: "In the boom years, when house prices and rents were rising, many landlords were keen to kick out tenants who were late with the rent.
"They’d take cases to the courts as soon they could to remove a tenant in arrears because they knew that would mean increasing the rent when they got a new tenant in, or selling the place to capitalise on inflated house prices.
"But in 2008, house prices stopped rising, and an empty property became a landlord’s worst nightmare. In the current housing market, landlords are doing all they can to keep tenants in their properties – even if it involves more leniency towards late rent payments."
The downturn has been so severe, it has driven many landlords out of the market. According to the CML, the number of buy-to-let mortgage possessions in the year ending in the third quarter of 2009 was three times higher than the same period for 2007.
To ensure mortgage payments can be made landlords have had to be flexible. Many have given tenants payment holidays to help overcome short-term cash problems, or relaxed rules regarding sub-letting. Others have reduced rents to ensure their properties don’t stay empty. Findaproperty.com calculated that average rents in Great Britain dropped by £25 per month in 2009.
Moore said: "The recession has caused misery for thousands in the UK – but thousands of tenants have benefited as the rules of the game have changed. A couple of years ago they’d have been out on their ears if they fell behind with the rent. But now that landlords are keen to avoid long void periods, rents have become more flexible and tenants have found it a lot easier to keep a roof over their heads."
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