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Changes to social welfare and the impact on evictions

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In 2013 Social Landlords issued 163,077 possession claims, 114,470 of these led to possession orders being made. It comes as no surprise then that the first three months of 2015 have seen a six year high in the number of evictions taking place.

The main cause of this? Rent arrears. If you are in rent arrears then your landlord may issue Possession Proceedings against you, this is your landlord’s first step to have you evicted from your home. If the Court then makes a possession order against you, your landlord can apply for a Warrant of Eviction, which is a date and a time for the Court Bailiffs to attend at your property, remove your belongings and change the locks.

But why has there been an increase in rent arrears?

The Housing Benefit application process is a long and complicated one, with decisions taking up to 14 days to be made subject to further delays caused by requests for extra evidence from applicants to support their claims. This puts tenants in an unsteady position with their rent from the outset of their tenancy. And with housing benefit being suspended each time there is a change in circumstances these difficulties can recur for tenants throughout their tenancy.

With predicted further cuts to housing benefits; a potential further rise in Bedroom Tax Deductions; and possible reductions in the Discretionary Housing Fund it is safe to assume that the number of people experiencing difficulties in paying their rent will increase, potentially further impacting on the number of evictions being seen.

The intention of the introduction of the bedroom tax was to encourage tenants to move from larger, less affordable, properties into smaller homes. This would then allow space for families in the larger properties and ultimately reduce the number of overcrowded households, which stood at 643,000 homes in 2012.

However, with a shortage of smaller properties actually available, the bedroom tax has not had the desired effect and has, arguably, increased the level of evictions and so the number of people who are homeless, putting further strain on the Local Authorities.

Those tenants who claim Discretionary Housing Payments are now, according to 95% of surveyed social housing landlord’s, dependant on their Discretionary Housing Payments to meet their rent payments. With cuts to this fund predicted to be made it is likely that there will be an increase in the number of households in rent arrears. This means that we are likely to see an increase in the number of possession proceeding claims issued by social housing landlords and, potentially, the number of evictions taking place.

If you are faced with possession proceedings our Housing Team can assist you in avoiding a possession order. Your landlord cannot have you legally evicted from your property without a possession order and while you can still apply to Court to stop an eviction from taking place it is extremely important that you defend possession proceedings as soon as possible to make sure that you have the best possible chance of staying in your home.

For more advice and assistance please contact our specialist housing team on 0175 321 6399.

By Sophia De Arez Cintra, trainee solicitor.

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