Associations may be forced to use ground eight orders to protect income
Fears welfare reforms will increase fast-track evictions
Landlords will fast-track possession claims using ‘draconian’ legal measures to defend their businesses against the impact of welfare reform, the government was warned this week.
Homelessness charity Shelter, the National Housing Federation and legal experts warned housing associations are already drawing up plans to use mandatory orders for possession much more often in order to protect their rental income as more tenants fall into rent arrears.
An anonymous survey conducted by Inside Housing of England’s largest 25 housing associations revealed seven of the 20 respondents are more likely to use or are reviewing their use of rarely used ‘ground eight’ orders.
Under the orders courts must grant permission to evict a tenant in arrears of just eight weeks or more, unless tenants can prove it would breach their human rights.
According to Jonathan Hulley, partner at law firm Clarke Willmott, ground eight orders are viewed as ‘draconian’ by landlords and therefore used only as a last resort.
A Home Group spokesperson said in the past five years the organisation had used just three ground eight orders across the 15,000 homes it manages in the north east and Yorkshire and Humber.
Most landlords use grounds 10 and 11 of the Housing Act 1988, which are more ‘discretionary’ and rely on a court case instead of an order.
The poll revealed three associations, which did not wish to be named, are more likely to use ground eight from 2013 as welfare reforms kick in. A further four said their policy was being reviewed, and the remaining 13 respondents said they would not be more likely to use ground eight.
Landlords are braced for the impact of benefit reforms, which from April 2013 will see up to 670,000 tenants in under-occupied properties have their benefit cut by up to 25 per cent. Local housing allowances have been capped affecting tenants in London where market rents are disproportionately high, and landlords will no longer be paid benefits directly under the universal credit.
John Gallagher, of Shelter Legal Services, warned ground eight orders could become a ‘first resort’ under increasing financial pressures. ‘Larger associations will probably use ground eight, and if other organisations see them doing this there will be pressure from investors or management to follow suit.’
John Bryant, policy leader at the National Housing Federation, said a shift towards using ground eight is already under way and would be ‘aggravated’ by welfare reforms.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: ‘[The threat of increasing arrears] is why we have announced five demonstration projects from June to see how we can protect landlords income.’
Inside Housing’s What’s the Benefit? campaign argued for more equitable welfare reform.