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The Rental Crisis May Become a Homelessness Crisis

December 2022.

In our continuing coverage of the crisis engulfing the private rental sector, we look at two more examples.

Alix Culbertson looks at the numbers and Amy Borrett the North-East.

'An emergency': Nearly one million private renters in England 'under threat of eviction'

Alix Culbertson

December 2, 2022

Nearly a million private renters in England are under threat of eviction due to record high rents and soaring living costs, a leading housing charity has found.

Shelter's poll, carried out by YouGov, found one in 12 private renters in England - equivalent to 941,000 people - are currently facing eviction. Of those at risk of eviction, 504,000 private renters had received or been threatened with an eviction notice in the past month - up 80% on the same period last year. And 482,000 of those are behind on their rent, which means they are in danger of losing their home, the research found.

Shelter has warned the government's failure to unfreeze housing benefit in the autumn statement on 17 November displays a failure to acknowledge the growing rental crisis and said it will result in rising homelessness this winter.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), which represents private landlords, also called on the government to "do more to support those most in need of help" including unfreezing housing benefit rates.

Shelter's research found a quarter of private renters, equivalent to 2.8 million people, are constantly struggling to pay their rent - an increase of 24% compared with the same period last year. And it found more than two thirds (69%) of private renters, equivalent to 7.7 million people, would struggle to find a suitable home this winter if they were evicted.

Chris Norris, policy director for the NRLA, said: "The vast majority of landlords want to help tenants stay in their homes wherever possible.

"It is simply absurd that support for housing costs is being linked to rents as they were three years ago, not as they are today."

He also called on ministers to address the rental supply crisis as he said the recent tax increases have reduced the number of homes available yet demand remains strong so is driving rents up.

Mr Norris added that the NRLA is working with the government to ensure the system that replaces Section 21 repossessions - known as "no-fault evictions" - is "fair and workable for responsible landlords as well as tenants".

The government said it is helping with the rising cost of living with the Energy Price Guarantee to help with energy bills this winter and payments of £1,200 to the most vulnerable. A government spokesman said: "Councils have a duty to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads, and we're giving them £316m this year to help prevent evictions and provide temporary accommodation.

"Ensuring a fair deal for renters remains a priority for the government, that's why we will deliver on our commitment to abolish Section 21 'no-fault' evictions."

During the pandemic, the Local Housing Allowance was increased beyond inflation at the time, with more than a million households getting an average of around £600 over the year. That has been kept by the government.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Every day our emergency helpline advisers are taking gut-wrenching calls - from the mum skipping meals to pay the rent to the family terrified they will be spending Christmas in a grotty homeless hostel.

"The government's refusal to unfreeze housing benefit, when private rents are rising at record rates, means the rental crisis is fast becoming a homelessness emergency.

"At Shelter, we are doing all we can to help people keep the bailiffs at bay, but we've got our work cut out. Shelter's frontline services are working seven days a week to help people weather the storm, but as more people turn to us, we need the public's support more than ever this winter."

© Alix Culbertson / Sky News 2022.

No-fault evictions driving up homelessness rates in the north of England

Amy Borrett

December 2, 2022.

Increased costs and regulations are discouraging landlords from renting properties, while rising mortgages mean that those that do are putting up rents. The result is a 44% rise in households receiving homelessness support from their council because their landlord wants to sell or re-let.

The number of households requiring council support for homelessness as a result of a no-fault eviction has increased by more than 50% across the north of England over the last three years, exclusive analysis by Sky News shows.

In the North East, the proportion of households either homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of a Section 21 notice, often called a no-fault eviction, has risen 88%, according to our analysis of new data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

In England as a whole there has been a 18% rise between the second quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2022.

A Section 21 notice allows a landlord to evict tenants on Assured Shorthold Tenancies, the most common type of tenancy in the private rental sector, without reason with only two months' notice.

During the pandemic this was extended to six months to give tenants more security, but the government withdrew this measure in October 2021.

Why is this happening?

Turmoil in the private rental sector is having a devastating knock-on effect on homelessness.

Half of homeless or at-risk households came from the private rented sector on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, up from a fifth in the second quarter of 2019.

This means it is now the most common reason why people need support from the council. Previously the most likely reason was that family and friends were no longer able to provide accommodation.

Our analysis found a marked increase in homelessness as a result of landlords wishing to sell or re-let their properties.

The number of households receiving support for homelessness for this reason has increased 44% in England and as much as 170% in the North East.

Nathan Emerson, chief executive of landlord membership organisation Propertymark, says that an increase in evictions is the result of the backlog created by the ban during the pandemic and an unfavourable economic and regulatory outlook for landlords.

"What we had was a blockage in the housing system because of COVID and the restrictions that were there," he says.

Mr Emerson adds that many landlords only make a profit of a few hundred pounds, which means they find it hard to absorb rising mortgage and upkeep costs.

"Not all landlords are big institutional multi-millionaires. The average landlord has one, two or three properties," he says, "If they have to do one or two repairs in a year that could wipe out any surplus money for them."

But Mr Emerson says that the underlying cause is the shortage of housing, which is increasingly making housing unaffordable for many people.

"The housing crisis is the result of monumental failures over the last 10 or 20 years, where government building targets have not been met and there hasn't been investment in social housing infrastructure.

"The one area that was stepping up to the plate to cover that shortfall was the private rental sector, but they're penalising those people and discouraging them from entering the market."

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: "We know how difficult this winter will be and no individual or their family should be without a home during it.

"This government is committed to abolishing Section 21 evictions, protecting 1.3 million families with children from losing their homes, and have provided £316m this year to councils to help ensure no family is without a roof over their heads. We've also set aside £37bn in support measures for those struggling with the rising cost of living.

"Our interventions are working - our Homelessness Reduction Act has seen over half a million households prevented from becoming homeless or supported into settled accommodation since 2018 and our £11.5bn Affordable Homes Programme will continue the delivery of affordable homes across the country."

© Amy Borrett / Sky News 2022.

Images via Sky News

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