The numbers are clear: evictions are on the rise.
Research from Inside Housing recently found that 76% more households were issued a Section 21 eviction notice from April to June last year than in the year before. In December, Shelter found that the number of people served or threatened with an eviction notice was up 80% at the end of 2022 compared to 2021. In London the number of landlords filing possession claims – a step in the eviction process – is at its highest level ever.
Lots of factors are contributing to these figures, including landlords selling off rental properties and a lift on the eviction ban that ran through the pandemic. However, whatever the reasons the impact on tenants in London remains the same. They left having to find new homes, at a time when rising living costs and soaring rents make this incredibly difficult.
For some, this raises the very real threat of homelessness. Eviction is a common reason that people become homeless, especially when it is combined with one or more other factors – for instance if someone is between jobs or having mental health difficulties at the same time. It can be hard to find somewhere new quickly enough, especially given dramatic increases in rent, and so people might need to move in with family or friends. If that isn’t an option, they may have nowhere to go.
It is no coincidence that alongside record levels of evictions, we are seeing increasing levels of homelessness. Rough sleeping numbers in 2022 were higher than the year before, and the number of people housed in temporary accommodation is far higher in London than anywhere else. In fact, 59% of all people in temporary accommodation are here, according to Centre for London research.
These figures highlight the need for more affordable homes in London. They also demonstrate why greater protections are needed for tenants.
Furthermore they are a sobering reminder of how easily homelessness can happen, and how it can occur because of factors beyond our control.
Despite lots of progress in public attitudes towards homelessness, many people impacted by it still feel that they are ‘othered’ and alienated from the wider community. For anyone lucky enough to have a secure home, it can be hard to imagine losing it and finding yourself on the streets – it might even be tempting to think that if this happens to people, they brought it on themselves.
Evictions are proof that this is not the case. They show how, with a bit of bad luck, homelessness can happen to anybody. It is not some complicated, other-worldly idea, and it isn’t something that has to happen dramatically or through anybody’s fault. It can be as real and as mundane as an unexpected letter through the post.