The annual possession statistics have been published and once again it is said that possession cases are going down. Whilst the amount of possession cases started at court have fallen (hardly a surprise given a hike in the issue fee), the number of people being evicted from their property by bailiffs continues to rise.
The number of people being evicted by a social landlord showed a slight decrease from 19,983 in 2014, to 19,093 in 2015, but still the total number continues to rise.
The explanation is down to the number of evictions being made by private landlords. Many people are being forced into private rented accommodation for a variety of reasons. The number is only going to increase. As a busy housing team we spend a lot of time advising about the benefits of social accommodation over private accommodation. One of the key pitfalls to private accommodation is the accelerated possession procedure, also known as the ‘no fault’ proceedings. This is when a landlord can have a client evicted through the courts as the tenancy agreement fixed term is at an end. In theory this means that a tenant could be forced to move on and re-locate (with the associated costs) every six months. The effect on adults and upheaval is one thing, the effect on children is another.
The number of evictions through accelerated procedures has almost trebled from 5,641 in 2010 to 16,440 in 2015 meaning that 16,440 families found themselves being evicted by bailiffs through no fault of their own last year alone. The Landlord did not obtain an order based on rent arrears or the actions of the tenants.
There are certain limited defences to the accelerated possession proceedings with very tight deadlines to submit information to court. Usually these proceedings are a paper exercise and no hearing at all will take place. It is vital to seek legal advice as soon a possible. The best time to get advice is as soon as a notice has been received by the landlord. In a worst case scenario advice can also be offered about the homelessness obligations of the local authority. Legal aid is still available for these cases when a means test is met.