500,000 faced repossession anguish

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Published: Wednesday 3rd December 2014 by The News Editor

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Up to half a million people were at risk of having their homes repossessed during the past year, a report by housing charity Shelter claims.

The charity estimates that between October 2013 and September this year around 204,689 households – roughly one in every 108 homes in England – have been at risk of losing their homes through repossession or eviction.

In London 56,605 possession claims were made – the highest number in any region across the country – and of those 90% were made by landlords.

Possession claims, applications made to a court by mortgage lenders and landlords to repossess a house, are the first stage of a legal process, which can result in a person or family being evicted.

The report also states that between July and September 2014 more than 11,000 renting households were evicted, the highest number of court enforced evictions since records began in 2000.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Imagine the panic of receiving a notice through the door saying that you could lose your home – that’s the devastating reality for thousands of people every week.

“The sky-high cost of housing is making it harder and harder for families to keep a roof over their heads. And with the stakes so high, all it can take is one piece of bad luck to send a family spiralling towards homelessness.

“Our advisers will be working non-stop this Christmas to support families who find themselves battling to keep their home – but our services are already over-stretched and we’re struggling to meet the demand.

“We desperately need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one is left to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas.”

The London borough of Newham has the highest rate of possession claims in the UK. During the past year one in every 36 households has been at risk of losing their home.

The overall figures represent a slight decrease on the previous year, when 209,785 possession claims were made, driven by a drop in the number of mortgage possession claims, better labour market conditions and a rise in house prices according to Shelter.

Its report also states that between July and September 2014 more than 11,000 renting households were evicted, the highest number of court enforced evictions since records began in 2000.

But the charity estimates that many more tenants may be served with eviction notices and simply move out rather than challenge landlords.

The report said: “Worryingly, these numbers are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. At Shelter we hear from renters who have been served with an eviction notice, and rather than challenging it, leave on the date requested by their landlord.

“We don’t know the exact number of people forced out by their landlord outside the court system, but it’s a big issue, and it’s not reflected in these possession statistics.”

Responding to the figures, housing minister Brandon Lewis said: ” Repossessions continue to fall at 31% lower than this time last year and the numbers of county court mortgage possession claims continue to fall to their lowest point in a decade, and they are predicted to fall even further.

“This is thanks to our work to tackle the deficit and keep interest rates low, helping more families to stay in their hard earned homes.

“This government has kept strong protections to guard families against the threat of homelessness. We’ve increased spending to prevent homelessness, with over £500 million made available to help the most vulnerable in society and ensure we don’t return to the bad old days when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today.

“We’re introducing measures to ensure tenants can be confident they will get a fair deal. Our How to Rent guide helps tenants know their rights and responsibilities, and letting agents are now required to belong to a redress scheme so landlords and tenants have somewhere to go if they get a raw deal.”

Published: Wednesday 3rd December 2014 by The News Editor

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