How evictions affect people in poverty

Evictions have increased rapidly in the last 12 years. What’s causing this rise, and what impact do evictions and forced moves have on the people who lose their homes?

Losing a home can be traumatic, stressful and challenging for anyone, but for tenants already struggling to make ends meet, this can add to other difficulties they experience.

I’ve just got pressure on my mind the whole time, where am I going to go? What’s going to happen to me? ...I tried to do away with myself three or four times because I didn’t know what way my life was going to go.
Woman living with partner, 50s

We know from our latest research on poverty, evictions and forced moves that the rented sector in England has grown by nearly a half in the last 12 years, and the number of tenants being evicted from their homes has grown by a third. In 2015, 10,000 more tenants lost their homes than in 2003.

The research shows that private landlords evicted more tenants than social landlords for the first time in 2014.

Why has the number of evictions increased?

The rise in evictions reflects the growth of the private rented sector, and particularly the increased use of ‘no fault’ – or Section 21 (S21) – evictions in the sector. Whereas in the social housing sector, tenants can only be evicted for rent arrears or a breach of tenancy, in the private rented sector landlords can end a tenancy after the initial fixed term without having to give a reason.

More than four-fifths of in the increase in repossessions is because of these S21 evictions.

They have it in for me. They just want me out, I don’t know what it is about me. I’m a good tenant, I don’t make any noise, I look after the place.
Single man, 40s

Which region has the most repossessions?

Four out of every five (81%) of all S21 repossessions in England are in London, the East and the South East. Nearly two-thirds (62%) are in London alone, even though London has only one-fifth (21%) of England’s private rented housing stock. Within London, S21 repossessions are highly concentrated, with one-third occurring in just five boroughs.

Landlords can evict people from private rented homes without having to give a reason.

What causes evictions and forced moves?

A combination of factors make some people more vulnerable to evictions and forced moves, including:

  • changes in welfare benefits
  • unaffordable rents
  • getting into rent arrears
  • lack of affordable alternative housing
  • poor condition of property or poor landlord behaviour.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is used to work out Housing Benefit for people who rent privately. In principle it is linked to the 30th percentile of market rents, but the freezing of LHA payments announced in 2015 – and only allowing below-inflation increases in the years before this – means it now lags far behind this level.

With the £50 a month (Housing Benefit shortfall) coming out of the JSA – that’s almost a week’s money in itself – and then you’ve got the other bills…I just couldn’t make it work. I had to choose, what do I pay this month – do I pay the rent? Do I pay the electricity? Do I buy some food? And it just snowballed.
Single man, 40s

The shortfall between what tenants can get in benefits and the amount of rent they have to pay is most striking in London, where average shortfalls range from £72 to £476 per month, compared to £16 to £47 per month outside London.

Monthly rent shortfall in each Broad Rental Market Area in England

This map shows the gap between rents and Local Housing Allowance in each Broad Rental Market Area in England, for two-bedroom properties.

These shortfalls show the growing affordability gap that many people face.

It is too expensive… £120–£135 a week. Housing will only pay £65 so I don’t know where you’re meant to get the other £65 from.
Single man, 50s

In turn, this can mean tenants get into debt or arrears and are forced to move, but then they struggle to find alternative housing at affordable prices.

I paid it as much as I could, but my youngest child has been quite sickly…if my kids are sick I don’t get paid.
Single mother, 20s

Some people have to move into temporary accommodation, but the insecurity and lack of space is stressful, affecting both physical and mental health.

It’s all of us in one room, you can imagine the tension…. everyone’s snapping because they don’t have their own personal space …it’s just a room with two beds. My little brother has to do his homework on the floor.
Woman, under 21

Forced moves occur when residents feel they have no option but to leave the property – they feel forced to go. The reasons for forced moves include landlord intimidation, disputes with neighbours and the poor condition of the property.

The number of forced moves is relatively low, as most tenants are unable to find anywhere else to live and remain in unsuitable housing that needs significant repairs.

We had really bad damp problems, the plaster was all peeling off round the windows and … they didn’t do anything about it. We’d had enough in the end, we decided to move out.
Couple with children, 20s
​The ceiling fell through on my little boy in his cot…the back wall in the kitchen was all mouldy, the bath fell off the side of the wall and it was leaking; my toilet didn’t even flush. The lights weren’t working. The polystyrene ceiling tiles were mouldy and they were falling down and they were breaking, it just wasn’t nice at all.
Single mother, 20s

JRF’s recommendations for the private rented sector

In our strategy report – UK poverty: Causes, costs and solutions – we recommend uprating Local Housing Allowance in line with local market rents, so that it keeps pace with rising rent costs.