Study reveals annual £28m cost of evicting tenants from social housing

Study reveals annual £28m cost of evicting tenants from social housing

Evicting tenants from social homes cost the public purse at least £28 million in a single year, according to new research published by Shelter Scotland.

The housing campaign group commissioned academics from the University of Liverpool to establish the true cost of evictions by councils and housing associations. The study goes beyond the direct costs like legal fees, to get a more accurate cost of the 1,866 evictions by councils and housing associations in 2019-2020.

The charity said that £28m is a “conservative estimate” but a significant proportion of this comes from the cost of providing homelessness services for those households who went on to present as homeless. The cost of providing support for homeless households varies widely but the research has highlighted that the average total cost of evicting a single person with low support needs into homelessness, with a not unusual nine-month stay in temporary accommodation, is nearly £24,000.

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “This important research shows that the use of eviction to manage rent arrears is not cost-effective.

“Instead it is a classic lose-lose situation with individuals and families facing harmful disruption and stress, all at excessive cost to the public purse.

“We must see an end to people being evicted into homelessness and we call on social landlords to follow best practice and find more progressive and effective answers to helping tenants manage rent arrears.”

Sally Thomas, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), said evictions in the social housing sector are a last resort action and only take place after all other avenues have been exhausted.

“Social landlords will never evict a tenant who’s struggling to pay their rent but is trying to do so and is engaging with them,” she told SHN.

“Social landlords are very aware of the wider impact of evictions and that is why they work so hard through tenancy sustainment services to prevent them from happening. 

“However, evictions remain a crucial action of last resort in cases of anti-social or criminal behaviour or when a tenant will not respond to their social landlord and agree a payment plan. This enables social landlords to protect other tenants and the local community and to keep delivering affordable homes and vital services, including repairs and maintenance.

“Our message is clear. If tenants are struggling to pay their rent, they should get in touch with their housing association or co-operative straight away. They can, and will, help people to keep their home.” 

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