THE gulf between home ownership and renting has been exposed in new figures revealing the number of house repossessions and mortgages in arrears have fallen to a new low as tenant evictions hit a record high.
Experts have claimed that rock-bottom interest rates and an improving job market are behind a fall which saw only 3,100 properties repossessed in the first three months of 2015 – down 26 per cent on the previous quarter and 52 per cent lower year on year, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).
The proportion of mortgages with arrears equivalent to 2.5 per cent or more of the total loan value was 1.03 per cent at the end of the first quarter, down on the 1.24 per cent recorded at the same time last year.
Of the 113,900 total loans in arrears, 24,400 were in the most severe band where more than 10 per cent of the balance is in arrears – the lowest since the end of 2008.
The Director General of the CML, Paul Smee, said: “Although complacency would be misplaced, the underlying picture continues to be one of improvement and a continuing reduction in mortgage arrears and repossessions.”
Meanwhile, the number of tenants evicted from their homes hit the highest level since records began in the first three months of the year, according to official figures.
The Ministry of Justice reported 11,307 renting households in England and Wales were evicted in the first three months of 2015 – up eight per cent on a year earlier and the highest number recorded in a single quarter since records began in 2000.
Homeless charity Shelter said the figures were a “glaring reminder that sky high housing costs and welfare cuts are leaving thousands of people battling to keep a roof over their heads”.
Its chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: “Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact of a housing market at boiling point, with the cost of renting so high that many families are living in fear that just one thing like losing their job or becoming ill could leave them with the bailiffs knocking at the door.”
He called on the Government to strengthen the housing safety net to “make sure people aren’t left to fall through the cracks and hurtling towards homelessness”.
The figures showed that the rise in repossessions by county court bailiffs came after a peak in the number of claims made by landlords for evictions at the beginning of 2014, when this reached more than 47,200 in the first quarter as a result of a booming rental market.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “There are strong protections in place to guard families against the threat of homelessness.
“We increased spending to prevent homelessness, with over £500m 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.”