There was an 8% rise in the number of tenants in severe financial difficulty in the second quarter of 2012, according to the latest Tenant Arrears Tracker by Templeton LPA.
The specialist practice of LPA Receivers found that there were over 7,000 more tenants over two months in arrears in the second quarter than in the previous quarter.
Between April and June 2012, an average of 100,400 tenants in England and Wales were in severe arrears – an increase of 24% compared to a year ago. This is the highest number on Templeton LPA’s records, which extend back to 2008.
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.
“As the private rented sector grows, the number of tenants in dire financial straits is steadily climbing,” said Paul Jardine, director and receiver at Templeton LPA.
“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.”
While the number of severe arrears cases (tenants with arrears of more than two months) 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 fall from 9.9% at the end of April.
Jardine added: “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.
“However, this will be no comfort to the growing minority of tenants several months behind with their monthly rent cheques. As mortgage finance remains difficult to secure, the contrast between better-off frustrated buyers stuck in rented accommodation and renters in severe arrears will grow starker yet, and the number of tenant evictions is likely to increase.”
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 report found that the increasing number of severe tenant arrears cases and evictions has yet to filter through into increasing buy-to-let mortgage arrears. In the first quarter of 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.
“Buy-to-let mortgage arrears have been steadily falling since the Bank of England reduced interest rates in 2009,” explained Jardine.
“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.”