two thirds of Leeds city council’s eviction proceedings against tenants who have fallen behind with their rent are being thrown out by the courts.
Figures obtained by the YEP show the authority has started eviction proceedings against 4,000 council house tenants over the past three years for rent arrears. However, the figure for 2013/14 so far – the year of the ‘bedroom tax’ – is down on previous years, with means-based instalment plans instead being applied increasingly by judges loathe to make people homeless.
Newly released data also show that the council spends an average of £100,000 a year on eviction warrants, and almost £250,000 annually on legal costs attached to possession hearings. However, only around 150 people a year are actually evicted.
When recovering rent arrears, the council is required to comply with strict Government rules. It says court action is always “a last resort”.
The YEP reported last week that Leeds city council’s arrears from tenants had shot up by 50 per cent from £4m to £6m since the controversial bedroom tax was introduced in April.
Most of the new debt was down to late payments, however a significant amount related specifically to people affected by the bedroom tax. A staggering 60 per cent of people in this group – 6,000 households in the city – fell into arrears between April and the end of July.
Coun Peter Gruen, Leeds city council’s housing boss, told the YEP he was not surprised by the figures.
But he said the authority was trying to help those who are “just keeping their heads above water”, and has employed 19 new people purely to help tenants work through payment issues in recent months. Speaking of the bedroom tax and its impact on rising rental debt to the taxpayer, he added: “It will cost us more money rather than saving money. It will definitely get worse.”