A Familiar Narrative
You may have noticed that privately rented accommodation is not always held in the highest regard. With a shortage of housing in the United Kingdom (at least in London, anyway), private tenancies are regularly decried for being expensive, poor value and, ultimately, unstable.
Repossessions – or evictions – we are reminded are commonplace in the private sector.
The received wisdom goes that with little regulation of rents and a highly pressured market, private landlords can make renting very difficult. Untenable, even. On the other hand, social housing is affordable, in good condition and above all else, secure. Or so the story goes…
Possession claims from Social Housing Higher Than and Private Housing
Findings from the Ministry of Justice suggest that we might not be getting the whole story. Of the possession claims issued in the first quarter of 2016, over half (57%) occurred in social housing. By contrast, just 15% occurred in private, while 28% of possession claims were accelerated procedures.*
Accelerated possession claims are made up of a mixture of both social and private, but it is likely that a substantial amount of the claims will be from the latter tenure.
However, even if all the accelerated possession claims came from the private rented sector (PRS), this would still only amount to 43% – far less than the figure for social housing.
When we consider how many claims actually result in county court bailiff repossessions, the findings also show that the majority originate from social housing, with 44% in social, 14% in private and 42% accelerated.
Expansion of the PRS
Even so, it should be noted that the proportion of repossession claims in social housing has actually decreased over time while there has been a corresponding increase in both private and accelerated procedures.
|Type of Claim||1999||2015|
Much of this has to do with how the landscape of housing in the United Kingdom has changed over time. Social housing has declined, while the private rented sector (PRS) has expanded dramatically.
The private rented sector (PRS) now accounts for approximately 5 million households and has overtaken social housing. In 2014-15, the PRS accounted for 19% of households while the social rented sector fell behind at 17%.**
More people are privately renting than ever before, including more vulnerable households who would traditionally live in social housing, such as those from lower incomes and in receipt of housing benefit.
Of course, some will argue that the majority of private renters, once served with an eviction notice, are likely to voluntarily leave a property instead of remaining against their landlords’ wishes and advancing a repossession claim.
However, research indicates that, by and large, it’s the tenant that brings their tenancy to an end, rather than their landlord. According to English Housing Survey findings, 78% of tenants reported that their last tenancy ended because they wanted to move to a different property.***
Research from the National Landlords Association supports these findings. Only 1% of tenants said that their landlords ended their last tenancy. By contrast, over half (51%) of tenants reported that their tenancy continued after the fixed term had expired and a third (33%) said that their landlord renewed their tenancy after it had finished.****
Long-term Tenancies benefit everyone
This is an important issue, but private renting is not as unstable as you might have thought – and no more so than social renting which is often held up as the beacon of stability.
After all, long-term tenancies do not just benefit renters, they benefit landlords too. It stands to reason that possession claims in private rented accommodation should be lower than in other tenures, particularly when renters have the freedom to extend and end tenancies when they wish.
The real story will be whether this trend continues. As the PRS continues to grow, will we see an increase in possession claims as more households find themselves unable to rely on social housing and to sustain the repeated cuts to housing benefit?
*Ministry of Justice Bulletin – Mortgage & LL. Possession Statistics in England and Wales April to June 2016
**DCLG English Housing Survey Headline Report 2014-2015
***DCLG English Housing Survey Household Report 2013-14
****NLA Quarterly Tenant Panel – Q2 2016 (946 respondents)