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Rental property possessions soar in the past year

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Over the past year, 12,965 rental properties were repossessed – a 1,500% increase on the figures recorded in the previous year.

While this looks like a significant increase, it needs to be seen in the context of the pandemic eviction ban.

During the pandemic, the government announced tenant evictions would be banned, with this rule in force until May 2021.

Therefore, only cases where it was deemed necessary were processed, with just 817 rental properties repossessed during 2020/21.

However, when comparing the figures with a more typical year, the 1,487% increase in rental property possessions to 12,965 is actually 56% lower than the 29,347 recorded in the 2019/20 pre-pandemic year.

Housing Law specialist, Landlord Action, added that the level of rental homes being repossessed on an annual basis had already been declining steadily year-on-year, down from 35,046 in 2017/18 to 33,113 in 2018/19.

Latest data also showed that total repossessions account for 26% of all initial claims made by landlords.

While this was far lower during 2020/21 at just 4%, it’s a lower proportion than 2019/20 (28%), 2018/19 (28%) and 2017/18 (27%).

‘Backlog of cases being processed’

Eddie Hooker, CEO of the Hamilton Fraser Group, which includes Landlord Action, said: “At first glance, it would appear as though the floodgates have opened where the repossession of rental properties is concerned, but this isn’t quite the case.

“Following a year where tenant evictions were banned except for in certain circumstances, there was always going to be a spike in repossessions as a backlog of cases finally started to be processed.

“However, we’re yet to see the level of rental homes being repossessed return to pre-pandemic levels and there are also a lower proportion of initial claims making it to this final, last resort stage.”

Hooker added: “While delays due to the backlog of cases may certainly be one cause, it’s also fair to say that the nation’s landlords have largely acted with empathy and understanding following the pandemic, understanding the problems facing many tenants and looking to help them rather than turf them out on their ear.”

Paul Sowerbutts, head of legal at Landlord Action, said the firm had prepared itself for the expected spike in property repossessions as it is “busier than ever”.

Sowerbutts, said: “Whilst we expect this trend to continue into both the third and final quarters of this year due to the cost-of-living crisis, we also expect repossessions levels to remain high into next year as well.”

Alicia Kennedy, director of campaign group, Generation Rent, said: “The eviction ban was a necessary intervention to protect renters during the pandemic, as was the ban on enforcing home repossessions.

“The backlog in repossessions are now moving through the courts and these figures represent that.

“As food and fuel prices soar, too many renters are in serious financial trouble. This is the issue we need tackling.

“We need urgent action from the government, which has so far ignored the cost-of-living pressures on renters.”