Thousands of tenants could lose their homes in the coming months as the cost of living crisis worsens, figures show.
A ban on evictions was put in place during the pandemic to protect vulnerable tenants, but those measures were lifted last summer and evictions are on the rise.
Since then, councils have evicted more than 1,000 tenants from properties owned or managed by local authorities over rent arrears, according to figures obtained by Sky News under the Freedom of Information Act.
This represents almost four households every day.
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The actual number is likely to be much higher than this, as most former communal properties are managed by housing associations, which are not required by law to publish eviction figures.
More than 14,000 landlords began legal proceedings to evict tenants from their properties between October and December 2021, according to the Justice Department.
“I just went into a state of shock and pure panic”
Sarah lives in Poole, Dorset with two of her three daughters.
In January, the 54-year-old single mother received a Section 21 notice, meaning she had to find another home two months after receiving the letter.
She hadn’t done anything wrong, but the landlady wanted the property back and was threatening to evict them if the family didn’t move out in time.
“I came home one day and on the doormat was a hand-delivered letter. I knew almost immediately because no one is hand-delivering letters to me.
“I read it and my heart sank. I was just in shock and sheer panic about where we’re going to live?”*
With fuel bills expected to rise, inflation at its highest in almost 30 years and with private rental prices rising, Sarah fears she won’t be able to afford another place to live.
“The kind of rents we’re looking at may be affordable now, but what if the bills go up so much we can’t pay the rent? We’ll be back in the same position.
“It makes me so angry that as a country we have allowed so much of our society to end up living in this level of insecurity. That needs to change.”
The government says it will ban Section 21 notices as part of its plans to level Britain.
The new legislation would create indefinite tenancies, with landlords required to provide a “concrete and proven reason” for ending the tenancy.
Despite this, the picture is getting darker and darker.
Almost a million low-income families in England are paying rent they cannot afford in the private sector and almost half are families with children, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The government has announced a package of measures to help families cope with rising bills.
About 80% of households will benefit from a £150 council tax rebate and all families will receive a loan of £200 to help pay their electricity bills.
Around £65million has already been given to councils in England to support low-income people in arrears.
“It’s never been darker than this”
Meanwhile, grassroots charities providing debt support and advice are reporting higher demand than ever.
“I am exceptionally worried – and have worked in this industry for over 26 years,” says Sylvia Simpson, chief executive of the Leeds-based charity Money Buddies.
“It’s never been darker than this. We have a lot of clients who come to tell us they’ve had an eviction notice, the bailiffs are knocking on the door, they’re in debt and they don’t can’t cope.
“It’s good to say we’ll give people a £150 council tax rebate. People don’t get a £150 council tax rebate because council tax is going up, so it’s not really £150.
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“And the government is putting everyone £200 in debt. So in October everyone has to pay back £200 to their utility providers over the next five years.
“I am exceptionally angry because I think the government could step in and do more.”
* After visiting several properties in her area, Sarah has found a new place to live. This is the fifth house she has rented in almost 10 years.