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Possession actions remain low, but for how long?

Christina Hoghton
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Christina Hoghton

Cost of living pressures are hitting mortgage borrowers and tenants alike, which could lead to a rise in court possession activity

Mortgage possession actions have dropped significantly, according to the Ministry of Justice, in new data published this week.

Compared to the same quarter in 2019 (which is being used as a baseline due to Covid measures in 2020 skewing the data), mortgage possession claims (2,833) are down 59%.

Mortgage orders for possession (1,235) are down 70%, warrants issued (933) are down 81% and actual repossessions (385) are down 68% on 2019 levels.

After being banned in 2020 repossessions only restarted in the spring. As a result, there were only 10 repossessions over the whole of last year from April 2020 to March 2021, and only 385 repossessions in July to September 2021, down 68% compared to the same quarter in 2019.

What about landlords?

Landlord possession actions have also decreased significantly, when compared with the baseline of two years ago. Compared to the same quarter in 2019, landlord possession claims, orders, warrants and repossessions by county court bailiffs have decreased by 64%, 75%, 69% and 35% respectively.

However, there has been a significant increase in the proportion of private landlords seeking eviction of tenants through the courts, up from 21% of claims in July-September 2019 to 43% of claims in the same quarter of this year.

Richard Lane, director of external affairs at StepChange, said: “The fact landlord evictions remain low is a positive sign. It’s now important that the recent £65m fund created by the Government to help renters in arrears is efficiently disbursed to keep things that way. We will seek to work with local authorities and the housing sector to ensure that those who are eligible for assistance can access it.

“However, a further increase on today’s figures can’t be ruled out. StepChange’s research has consistently highlighted renters as one of the groups most likely to have faced a prolonged loss of income or experienced a negative financial impact due to the pandemic.

“With cost of living pressures set to weigh heavy on households over the winter months, it’s therefore important the Government carefully monitors court possession activity to assess the need for further funding. Its priority must be to prevent a continued increase in evictions and homelessness arising from pandemic-induced rent arrears.”