Residents in Hackney and Lewisham are among those most at risk of losing their homes through repossession, according to new research published yesterday.
Housing charity Shelter revealed the two boroughs are in the top ten local authorities with the highest rates of repossession claims.
Hackney ranked fifth in the country with 2,050 homes having been issued with a possession order between October 2010 and September 2011, 2.8 per cent of all households in the borough. Lewisham ranked ninth with 2,215 repossession claims, and Croydon came just outside the top ten, ranking eleventh. Tower Hamlets was listed twenty-first out of the 324 UK local authorities, with 1,535 households facing repossession.
The research shows strong correlation between repossession rates and unemployment figures. Unemployment among 16-64 year olds in Hackney and Lewisham stands at 10.3 per cent, followed by Croydon with 6.9 per cent. Tower Hamlets has the worst record of the east London boroughs with 12.9 per cent. Unemployment across the country is currently 8.3 per cent, the highest level since 1996, the Office for National Statistics revealed today.
Chief executive of Shelter, Campbell Robb, said: “As Christmas approaches, this research paints a frightening picture of thousands of families living every day with the fear of losing their home hanging over their heads. Its sobering to see that so many communities are blighted by the risk of eviction.”
Shelter’s findings show short hold tenants are particularly affected by repossession claims with an 8 per cent increase in claims for such properties nationally. Mortgage possession claims actually went down by the same percentage between October 2010 and September 2011.
Legislation enables a landlord to lawfully evict an assured short hold tenant from privately rented accommodation when the end of a tenancy is reached (usually 6 months to a year) under section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act.
Catherine Dempsey, Social Policy Coordinator at Hackney Citizen’s Advice Bureau told EastLondonLines that between April and September 2011 Hackney CAB saw a 12% increase in enquiries about evictions (for both private and social rented accommodation) compared to the same period last year.
Dempsey also said illegal evictions form a small proportion of all evictions from private rented accommodation, but enquiries on illegal evictions and harassment are up 26% compared to the same period last year.
Michael Foley, also of Hackney CAB, said: “There has been an increase in mortgage lenders taking repossession, and private landlords are now more active in taking repossession action against tenants, in many instances simply for the reason that the current tenants cannot afford increases in rents, and also as a result of reductions in amount of housing benefit that tenants are awarded, as opposed to actual rent charged.
Foley warned: “We are very concerned that repossessions rates shall continue to markedly increase in the coming months. The need for more social housing is ever increasing, and perhaps a more reasonable ‘fair rent’ test should be applied in the private sector.”
A repossession claim, according to Shelter, is a good indicator of the extent to which families are struggling to keep up with their housing costs and face losing their home. The charity estimates that around a quarter of repossession claims result in evictions.
Lewisham Council runs a homeless prevention scheme that offers small loans to tenants to help them clear arrears and prevent repossession, and offers a debt/money advice service to help people prioritise their debts and prevent homelessness. The Council also works closely with mortgage companies and landlords to negotiate solutions.
On support given to residents by Hackney Council, a spokesman for the Council said: “The Council is a local co-ordinator of the Government’s Mortgage Rescue Scheme, while its Housing Advice and Options service works with residents, landlords and Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau to assist those at risk of homelessness.”
The Shelter report is based on statistics obtained from the Ministry of Justice, and the time period covered is October 2010 to September 2011.
London residents are most vulnerable to repossessions; the top 12 local authorities on the list compiled by Shelter are all London boroughs.
An interactive map showing numbers and rates of possession claims for each area of England can be viewed here.
For advice about repossession and evictions visit http://england.shelter.org.uk/ or call 0808 800 4444.