Welsh social landlords evicting ‘too many people into homelessness’

Shelter Cymru says study confirms what it sees in casework.

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A new study exposes “very significant inconsistencies” in the numbers of tenants evicted by different social landlords in Wales.

The independent study, commissioned by the Welsh government, has found that rates of evictions varied between zero per thousand and nearly 10 per thousand across various housing associations and local authority landlords.

While some of them are identified as working hard to prevent homelessness and keep people in their homes, others are seen resorting to eviction too quickly, and as a result are creating homelessness in their local areas.

But Shelter Cymru says the numbers of social landlords who didn’t take part in the study was too high.

Nine failed to respond, including four local authority landlords and two large associations managing former council stock.

Now, the charity is calling on the Welsh government to:

  • Start monitoring and publishing evictions data by social landlord – a practice ended in 2011
  • Ensure every landlord adopts the best practice in tenancy sustainment that some are already doing
  • Set a target to end the practice of evictions from social housing that lead to homelessness

“This study confirms what we witness in our casework: that some social housing providers are doing tremendous work to prevent homelessness while others are not doing enough to keep people in their homes,” said Shelter Cymru director John Puzey.

“In our homelessness prevention casework, certain social landlords’ names crop up time and time again, while we barely hear of others at all because they rarely evict their tenants,” he said.

According to Ministry of Justice possession statistics, there were 766 evictions from Welsh social housing in 2018.

The Welsh government study found that 27% of evictions involved families with children – suggesting that more than 200 families with children were evicted last year:

  • One local authority landlord obtained more than 350 possession orders and evicted more than 100 households
  • One large housing association obtained 234 possession orders and evicted 68 households
  • Rent arrears was the reason for more than four in five evictions.

The study concluded that some landlords are using possession orders as a way to force tenants to engage with them.

Shelter Cymru has criticised this practice, pointing out that taking tenants to court results in them having to pay hundreds of pounds in court costs, pushing them further into debt.

The study found that other landlords do not use possession orders to force engagement, instead focusing on improving their relationships with tenants as a way of avoiding taking them to court.

“It is quite possible to avoid eviction, and we know there are some landlords who have achieved low or even zero evictions because they put in place the right support services and timely interventions to prevent problems from escalating,” said Puzey.

“These landlords put a lot of effort into establishing strong, trusting relationships with their tenants right from the outset, rather than contacting them with threatening letters if they fall behind with their rent.

“There is fantastic practice already happening in Wales, and there’s no reason at all why it shouldn’t become normal practice for every social landlord,” he said.

Clarissa Corbisiero, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Community Housing Cymru stressed tackling homelessness now had to be a joint-effort.

“We are committed to ending evictions into homelessness, but we can’t do this alone and as a sector, we know what needs to be done.

The report identifies housing associations are taking an increasingly holistic approach to addressing the needs of tenants, including offering support to tenants prior to, and throughout, their tenancies to prevent issues such as rent arrears and anti-social behaviour occurring,” said Corbisiero.

“Tackling homelessness needs to be a joint effort between landlords, health services, police and local government.

“With further investment, and by working together, we can ensure that money is spent to provide sufficient resources to support those services that are essential for maintaining successful tenancies, and help end evictions into homelessness,” she said.

 

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