More than 100,000 renters are in severe arrears
The number of tenants in severe financial difficulty in England and Wales climbed by 8% in the second quarter of 2012 taking the total to it highest level ever of 100,400.
According to the Tenant Arrears Tracker by Templeton LPA, the specialist practice of LPA receivers and part of LSL Property Services, this is an increase of 24% compared to a year ago. And it is the highest number on Templeton LPA’s records, which extend back to 2008.
Tenants with severe arrears are classed as those that owe more than two months rent and during the second quarter of 2012 this number rose by more than 7,000.
The increase also represented a proportional rise. In the second quarter of 2012, tenancies in severe arrears represented 2.6% of all tenancies in the private rented sector in England and Wales – an increase from 2.4% in the previous quarter.
Paul Jardine, director and receiver at Templeton LPA, commented: “As the private rented sector grows, the number of tenants in dire financial straits is steadily climbing. Falling wages in real terms have been compounded by rising rents, pushing a greater number of rented households over the edge financially.
“With the instability in the labour market and wider economy, and public sector cuts still to come, the section of renters in multiple months of arrears is likely to continue its expansion.”
Although the number of severe arrears cases continues to climb, the general level of tenant arrears across the entire market has improved, with 8.9% of all rent in the private rented sector late or unpaid by the end of May, a decrease from 9.9% at the end of April.
Jardine continued: “The wider rental market currently includes a much higher proportion of financially comfortable tenants who would have been buyers before the initial credit crunch, reining in general arrears across the market as a whole.”
The increased number of tenants in severe arrears has driven a rise in the number of tenants being evicted through court orders.
In the first quarter of the year, 26,060 tenants faced eviction notices – 6% more than in the previous quarter, and 5% more than in the same period of 2011.
The growing number of severe tenant arrears cases and evictions has yet to filter through into increasing buy-to-let mortgage arrears. In Q1 2012, the number of buy-to-let mortgages more than three months in arrears fell by 4% compared to the previous quarter, representing an annual decline of 19%.
However, at 23,700, there are still almost double as many buy-to-let mortgages in severe arrears than four years ago.
Jardine continued: “The rising level of severe tenant arrears has yet to filter through into buy-to-let arrears. In fact, buy-to-let mortgage arrears have been steadily falling since the Bank of England reduced interest rates in 2009.
“Landlords have been enjoying historically low mortgage payments, which has cushioned the blow of late rent payments, and many have met the lower mortgage costs with money set aside from slush funds, or rental guarantee schemes.
“However by necessity an increased number of landlords have had to resort to court orders to remove tenants in long-term arrears, and this has increased.
“While landlords’ mortgage arrears are unlikely to rocket up until the interest rates are hiked, rising tenant arrears and an unsteady labour market will provide upwards pressure.”
David Brown, commercial director of LSL Property Services comments: “The average landlord hasn’t seen anywhere near the level of capital gains they did a couple of years ago, and the onus is firmly on rental income as the main driver for annual returns.
“In this environment, late or non payment of rent is even more of an issue for investors, and it’s not uncommon to see landlords be flexible on the rent at the outset of a tenancy to secure renters with the strongest evidence of sound finances and affordability.”