Behind this bald statement lies a story of untold misery, homelessness and hopelessness. Figures provided by the Ministry of Justice show a record number of evictions in 2015 since records began in 2000. There were 42,728 evictions, an increase of 53% from 2010, which equates to 250 evictions a day. How many of the evictees found themselves on the street, in hostels or bed and breakfast accommodation? A considerable number, as the local authorities with the highest number of evictions are also areas with shortages of available accommodation.
Perhaps not surprisingly, 16 of the 20 authorities with the highest number of evictions are in London boroughs. Not surprisingly, because these areas show the highest price increases, giving landlords the opportunity to maximise profits from their investments, by either selling their properties with vacant possession or by evicting existing tenants and establishing new tenancies – at a higher rent, of course. In Newham, there are 191 evictions per 100,000 properties.
Partly this has been fuelled by the number of working people now unable to buy properties, when for 50 years, home ownership has been the aspiration of even the fairly humble. Now those ‘home owners’, due to financial circumstances, find themselves reliant on the private sector. They are likely to be seen as a far better bet than a benefit dependent tenant, which in itself could push rents up and keep the poorest in temporary accommodation.
Statistics indicate that the University graduate, buying his own home at 22 or 23 years of age only a few years ago, will now not become a first time-buyer until he reaches the age of 31 and, if not forced to return to the family home, will have spent over £50,000 in rent in the period between university and home ownership. We should also not under-estimate the young people who choose private renting as an option that gives them most flexibility to move where their careers dictate.
It is for this reason that I strongly disagree with Betsey Dillner of Generation Rent. She states ‘if we had rent controls and better protection from eviction, renters would enjoy stability now and fewer people would be so desperate to buy’. Are 50 years of aspiration to home ownership so easily relinquished? People will still strive to buy, though it may take them longer. The Government is also committed to this, with shared ownership and help-to-buy schemes.
What of Ms Dillner’s idea that private landlords need more legislation? That rent controls are needed? Whilst it is widely acknowledged that areas in London and the South have a problem with landlords regularly replacing tenants to increase the rent, this situation must not be assumed to be the case nationally. In many areas of the North and North-west landlords will testify that they have not raised rents for 4, 5 or more years, being happy with stable tenancies and long-standing tenants.
Many decent landlords are considering their position in the light of new tax legislation. Rent controls may tip the balance, which could see less properties available, and in turn be very unwelcome in areas where the private sector is relied upon to house the vulnerable. Rent controls may be useful – but use them where they are necessary. Introduce special measures where there is a swift turn-over of tenants, where there are a high number of evictions. This will address the problem, without alienating further the decent landlords who want to help.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon