By William Schomberg
LONDON (Reuters) -No-fault eviction claims served on tenants in England have hit their highest number in more than seven years, according to official data, prompting homelessness campaigners to renew their calls for a long-promised reform of the rental market.
Between July and September, landlords in England started 8,399 no-fault eviction court proceedings against their tenants – the highest number since the second quarter of 2016, figures from the Ministry of Justice showed.
That represented an increase of 38% from the third quarter of 2022.
No-fault evictions allow landlords to end tenancies without giving a specific reason, and to go to court when a tenant declines to leave voluntarily.
Shelter, a campaign group which seeks to end homelessness, called on the government to deliver on its promise of reform.
“It beggars belief that this government is prepared to use cynical tactics to delay the banning of no-fault evictions, while record numbers of renters are being removed from their homes without cause,” Shelter Chief Executive Polly Neate said.
“With homelessness at record levels, there’s no excuse for putting the ban on unfair, no-fault evictions on ice.”
The government promised in 2019 to address no-fault evictions but the legislation has been bogged down in parliament. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government said it would push ahead with the reform in this week’s announcement of its agenda for the coming months.
A group representing landlords said the increase in no-fault evictions was mostly due to delays in pursuing other ways of getting tenants out of rental properties.
Chris Norris, policy director at the National Residential Landlords Association, said on average courts took almost 29 weeks to process possession cases where landlords are required to give a reason.
“That is far too long when tenants might be committing anti-social behaviour or failing to pay their rent,” he said.
Rents increased by 5.7% in the 12 months to September, the most in official data going back to 2016, adding to the strain on many households struggling with a surge in broader inflation that remained close to 7%.
Norris said many landlords were also under financial strain from higher borrowing costs and were selling up, increasing no-fault evictions.
Data published on Thursday by UK Finance, which represents banks and other lenders, showed 11,540 buy-to-let landlords were in arrears on their mortgages in the third quarter, an increase of 29%.
Britain barred the eviction of tenants during the coronavirus pandemic. The number of no-fault eviction claims by landlords remained below pre-COVID levels until early 2022 and have climbed steadily since.
(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Andy Bruce and Bernadette Baum)