New figures show social housing evictions are rising

Eviction

Fears social landlords are threatening eviction to collect rent arrears 

25th April 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

New figures show a sharp rise in the number of evictions social landlords are enforcing against tenants. 

Shelter Scotland says there's been a 24% increase in evictions by housing associations and local authorities in Scotland over the past two years.

The figures confirm fears social housing providers might be using the threat of eviction as a way of collecting rent arrears.

Last year there were 37,559 notices sent to tenants threatening eviction but only 2,130 evictions were carried out.

Since 2013/14 there has been an increase in the number of social sector evictions, the charity found. In 2015/16 there were 2,130 evictions, a 24% increase since 2013/14.

Councils carried out 1,300 evictions in 2015/16. City of Edinburgh Council’s evictions more than doubled, from 51 in 2013/14 to 118 in 2015/16 and North Lanarkshire Council had an even steeper increase, from 71 in 2013/14 to 196 in 2015/16.

How intervention reduced evictions at Glasgow Housing Association

Shelter Scotland reported on the success that Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) had achieved in its 2009 report on social sector evictions. 

Following a 2007 inspection report by Communities Scotland that criticised GHA's rent collection as being poor, GHA undertook a complete re-evaluation of its policies regarding rent collection and rent arrears. 

The key issues that were identified included: an absence of frank discussions with tenants about rent payments; too little personal contact with tenants; limited rent payment methods; and overdependence on using legal action to deal with arrears. 

GHA changed its emphasis from legal action to early intervention. It increased its direct engagement with tenants, focus on pre-tenancy support and early support for tenants falling into arrears. 

It also widened the rent payment options and improved its collaboration with the benefits team at Glasgow City Council and the Glasgow Homelessness Partnership. 

This resulted in the reduction in its total arrears from £10.1m in 2007/08 to £7.34m in 2008/09.

GHA further reduced its level of rent arrears to £6m in 2015/16, while at the same time reducing the number of evictions by almost 20% between 2013/14 to 2015/16.

In contrast, Dundee Council reduced its evictions by 33%, dropping from 107 to 71 evictions in 2015/16.

Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “These figures are extremely disappointing and should raise alarm bells about the way local authorities may be treating some of their most vulnerable and struggling tenants.

“We believe these figures on social landlord evictions show that a fundamental shift is needed in how rent arrears are managed. Tenants must always prioritise and take responsibility for paying their rent, but eviction is a very crude and inefficient way of dealing with rent arrears of tenants who often struggle with complex social and financial issues.”

There has been a slower rate of increased evictions by housing associations, with 830 evictions in 2015/16, a 5% increase since 2013/14.

Rent arrears account for 95% of all evictions from council housing, and 89% of housing association evictions. Only 6% of evictions are due to anti-social behaviour.

In March 2016 the total rent arrears across the social rented sector was £109.8m.

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “Our overall strategy in managing rental income collection is to support our tenants in arrears to sustain their tenancies wherever possible. Our approach focuses on prevention, early intervention with eviction remaining a last resort.”

A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council said: “These numbers are no surprise given that North Lanarkshire is the largest council landlord in Scotland by some distance. What these figures actually mean is that just half a percent of tenants were subject to eviction proceedings in North Lanarkshire…Eviction proceedings are an absolute last resort.”