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Possession Actions in England, 2019-2021

COVID-19Covid housing report 3Housing & homelessness

UK governments did not regulate rents during the emergency, and a public campaign for the suspension or cancellation of rent arrears was rejected. Instead, various measures of financial assistance were implemented: in March 2020, Local Housing Allowance was increased to cover 30% of market rents (restoring an earlier link, severed in 2016), and in late 2021 English local authorities were allocated additional funds to support low-income tenants still in rent arrears. The Scottish and Welsh Governments implemented loan schemes for the payment of arrears: the Scottish scheme paid up to nine months’ rent arrears, for repayment over a period of up to five years.

Government data on termination proceedings (‘possession claims’) in England show a dramatic reduction in the pandemic period. Possession claims by all landlords in Q2 2020 were down 88% on the same quarter the previous year, and claims for 2020-21 were down 79% on the previous year; however, the largest reductions were by social housing providers, not their private landlord counterparts. Claims by private landlords or otherwise using the ’accelerated procedure’ (largely no-grounds claims by private landlords) were down 80% in Q2 2020 year on year, and by the fourth quarter the rate was down 40% year on year.

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