Soaring numbers of people in private rented homes face eviction despite being up to date with their rent because rising house prices are prompting landlords to ask tenants to leave.
In the last year, Citizens Advice Bureaux has seen a 38 per cent increase in desperate tenants coping with the threat of eviction even though they have no rent arrears, according to figures seen by the Independent.
More than 5,000 of these cases were reported to Citizens Advice in 2013-14, up from 3,750 the previous year – and as the housing shortage reaches critical levels, the figures show how increasingly precarious the situation is for renters.
Eviction by private landlords is the most common cause of homelessness encountered by Citizens Advice, causing one in 10 of the 80,000 problems with homelessness the charity saw in the last year.
Tenants report being evicted following a request to carry out repairs, because the landlord wants to sell their home, or because rents are suddenly hiked to unaffordable levels.
Some people seen by the charity are even being given notice when they inform their landlord that their circumstances have changed and they have moved on to housing benefit, despite the fact that they have not fallen behind with their rent.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Tenants are being treated as cash cows as a chronic housing shortage pushes up prices and forces renters out of their homes. Competition for properties means that tenants are easy to replace, increasing insecurity for people trying to create a home in the private rented sector.
“We see people who will be forced to move away from work, school or family and friends, which can ramp up commuting and childcare costs or disrupt children’s education.”
Some 150,000 people have sought advice on renting from a private landlord on the charity’s website over the year from June 2013 to May 2014, a 13 per cent increase on the year before.
Richard Lambert, chief executive of the National Landlords Association (NLA), said: “While facing eviction for whatever reason is undoubtedly very stressful for those involved, Government figures show that only 9 per cent of tenancies are ended by the landlord and more than 90 per cent of those are because of rent arrears. The NLA believes no one should live in fear of eviction or lose their home due to the poor management or criminal behaviour of their landlord.”
Emma Reynolds, Labour’s shadow Housing Minister, said: “This shocking research demonstrates the growing instability and insecurity faced by private renters. Imagine having to leave your family home because you complained about the conditions or because the rent has been hiked up with no warning.”
But the Housing minister, Kris Hopkins, said: “I am clear that no reputable landlord would respond to a request for repairs by evicting their tenants, which is why we are considering whether landlords should be banned from evicting tenants for that reason.”