The number of tenants in severe financial difficulty has climbed by 10.2% in the first quarter of this year according to the latest tenant arrears tracker by Templeton LPA, part of the LSL Property Services plc Group.
Almost 8,800 more tenants were over 8 weeks in arrears and facing the threat of eviction than there were in the last quarter of 2011.
In the first quarter of 2012, an average of 94,400 tenants in England and Wales were in severe arrears, an increase of 20% compared to the same period in 2011.
Legal 4 Landlords spokesman Sim Sekhon said: “At the current rate of growth, the number of PRS tenants facing arrears greater than 8 weeks will climb above 100,000 in the next quarter. Tenants have been facing increasing financial pressures due to the state of the economy and the rising cost of living and unfortunately landlords without rent guarantee insurance have been suffering the most”.
Although severe rent arrears cases have continued to increase, PRS tenancies in severe arrears only represented 2.4% of all properties in the private rental sector (PRS) in England and Wales in the first quarter of 2012.
Overall tenant arrears have improved, with 9.3% of all rent either late or unpaid by February 28th, a decrease from 10.7% at the end of 2011.
Paul Jardine, director and receiver at Templeton LPA, said: “While the general tenant population has absorbed the rising cost of renting in the last two years, a minority of tenants are facing severe financial difficulties, a minority that is growing. These tenants have been pushed into deeper and deeper arrears by a combination of rising living costs, high rents and a weak labour market, and are now months behind with the rent cheque. In turn, these severe rental arrears figures have been inflated by the ongoing impact of county court closures. The closures have prolonged arrears cases, with landlords less able to gain court dates to quickly remove non-paying tenants. This is creating a backlog of tenants in extreme arrears, increasing the amount of rental income lost for landlords or their appointed receivers of rent. Despite the recent surge in severe arrears cases, overall tenant arrears have performed remarkably well given the challenging economic environment. In fact, as we often see at this point in the year, more financially robust households are now paying down post-Christmas debt and putting their finances in order, which is helping to reduce the overall level of tenant arrears.”
The annual growth in tenant arrears has been matched by a yearly rise in the number of tenants being evicted by court orders.
In the last quarter of 2011 some 24,702 tenants faced eviction notices, an increase of 9% on the 22,634 in the last quarter of 2010, although the figures reported are 4% lower than they were in the third quarter of 2011.
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