The Ministry of Justice published mortgage and landlord repossession statistics for the first quarter of 2022 on the 19th May 2022. The statistics show an increase in evictions when compared to the same quarter in 2021, and significant delays in the completion of repossession proceedings. Overall, rates of evictions are lower than in the same quarter in 2019, however this is primarily due to the continuing effect of the coronavirus pandemic. Although the 2022 figures have been compared with both 2021 and 2019, the temporary eviction ban will have affected the 2021 figures and the 2019 figures have been used to reflect pre-pandemic statistics.
There has been an overall decrease in landlord possession claims when compared with the same quarter in 2019. Landlord possession claims, orders, warrants and repossessions have decreased by 37%, 45%, 57% and 55% respectively. When compared with 2021 statistics however, there has been a drastic increase in the number of claims being made. There was a rise in possession claims from 6,376 to 19,033, orders from 5,424 to 12,975, warrants from 2,499 to 6,817 and repossessions from 269 to 3,763. The reason for this is the Coronavirus Act 2020, which imposed a temporary ban on all evictions until May 2021, which led to a stay in proceedings and an increased backlog which the courts have now begun addressing. When compared with the 2019 figures, it is clear the courts are facing delays while working through the initial backlog of claims commenced before the Coronavirus Act was enforced as well as trying to manage new claims commenced after May 2021. Since May 2021, there has been a steady increase in possession claims as the courts address outstanding claims as well as new claims started after May 2021, as landlords begin commencing evictions they were unable to while the temporary eviction ban persisted. Claims from private landlords make up one third of total landlord claims, a higher proportion than in 2019, and private landlord possessions have returned to pre-pandemic rates. In contrast, claims from social landlords have halved as a proportion, from 63% in 2019 to 34%. Additionally, coronavirus restrictions have also had an impact on bailiffs undertaking repossessions and enforcement actions. Not only have bailiffs faced delays in executing actions stayed as a result of the pandemic, restrictions imposed as late as 8 April 2022 on how bailiffs are to conduct repossessions and enforcement actions will likely also have had an inadvertent and unavoidable impact. This has led to a median length of time from the initial claim to landlord repossession of 27.3 weeks, an increase from 20.6 weeks in 2019.
An additional contribution to the increase in claims is likely to be the proposed Renters Reform Bill, which will abolish section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, known as ‘no fault’ evictions. This section allows landlords to evict tenants at will at short notice, even if the tenant consistently meets their contractual obligations. The announcement of the Bill has encouraged a movement among landlords who, fearing loss of their autonomy regarding their property, have adopted a knee-jerk reaction and evicted tenants ahead of the Bill’s drafting. Section 21 has become one of the leading causes of homelessness in the United Kingdom, according to the housing charity Shelter, so its proposed abolition will be a welcomed relief by tenants, who will benefit from more certainty, security and stronger rights. This will likely become even more crucial as the United Kingdom enters a cost of living crisis with significant financial struggles. It is therefore likely that evictions and delays will continue to rise at a steady rate.
Written by Charlotte Read