Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009
Tenants who rent face losing homes

By Matt Cole
Newsbeat reporter

Greg and Sophie Newman with Poppy and Finlay
Greg and his young family face an uncertain future in their home

There are fears that thousands of private tenants could be evicted this year because their buy-to-let landlords are struggling to keep up mortgage repayments.

The latest statistics from the Council of Mortgage Lenders predict 75,000 properties could be repossessed during 2009 and it's estimated around 10,000 of those are currently rented.

Thirty-one year-old Greg Newman and his young family are facing eviction right now.

They currently rent a small three bedroom terrace in Folkestone in Kent, but they've no idea how much longer they'll be allowed to stay.

Greg explained: "We've been here about three years now - it's home. But on New Year's Eve we found out our landlord hadn't been paying the mortgage, and that really led us to be concerned about what was going to happen."

Greg said he and his wife Sophie had no warning: "When you sign a contract you think that contract's legally binding and you're stuck where you are.

"But obviously with this fact he hasn't been paying the mortgage we're now governed by the mortgage company which could repossess the house.

'Really worrying'

"It's worrying from day to day. You don't know what could potentially happen at any given time. We're just waiting for the next letter to drop through the door to make our next move. It's really worrying."

Advice for tenants
Before you rent check the financial status of the landlord.
If facing eviction you can seek free advice from places like Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter, your local council or housing advisory centre.
Open all mail addressed to "the occupier."
Ask the courts to "add you to proceedings" so you can be kept up to date on the case.
Don't just move out without checking your contract - until you're evicted you may have to honour a notice period.
Check if your landlord used a secure deposit scheme to look after your deposit - if they did you should be able to get it back.

The Newman's have two children, Poppy who's two and four year-old Finlay. They're concerned what having to move will mean for Finlay as he's just started school nearby.

Sophie, 30, explained: "It would be a massive upheaval, especially for the children. We are settled here - it's the perfect location for us here really. I don't drive so I need to walk my son to the school of the mornings."

She added: "We haven't done anything wrong and it is frustrating."

Greg and Sophie are still waiting to hear from their landlord's mortgage company whether a repossession will go ahead, forcing them out.

Whilst they're hoping they'll get to stay, experts say the reality is lenders almost always evict tenants when they repossess.

Growing problem

Adam Sampson, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, says he's worried about the increasing numbers of people seeking advice from his organisation.

He explained: "We're seeing hundreds, if not thousands of tenants coming to us who have now received letters from the courts saying that their landlord hasn't been paying the mortgage and that the house is about to be repossessed and that they are about to become homeless.

"Many people who became buy-to-let landlords in the last five years simply can't afford to continue to pay the mortgage, and there are going to be tens of thousands of tenants who are going to be homeless on the streets unless we do something about it."

Greg Newman
Greg is still waiting to hear from his landlord's mortgage company

He went on: "It's not the tenant's fault. Most of the tenants have been paying their rent, paying their bills, been perfectly respectable tenants.

"It's the landlords who got into the buy to let market without being able to sustain their borrowing."

There's also concern about the notice many tenants get. Whilst letters might be sent from courts alerting them weeks in advance to possession proceedings, many don't open them as they're addressed to "the occupier."

As such it's thought tenants often think the envelope contains junk mail and bin it.

When a notice of eviction is finally given tenants can have as little as 14 days to get out - and that's only if they opened the letter which will, like those about possession hearings, be addressed to "the occupier."

Hearing that came as a shock to Greg Newman. He gasped: "I thought it would be a mater of months, not days."

He did however add: "We do open all "occupier" letters and any sort of information we get through the door is always opened."

Government help

The Government says it is aware of the issue.

Housing Minister Iain Wright said: "We are taking action to give real help now to households being affected by repossession, including tenants.

"From next month, tenants will get the maximum possible notice of possession proceedings that may affect their home, instead of the two weeks currently. This means they will get nearly two months to make alternative arrangements.

"We are also working closely with lenders to establish clear procedures that ensure tenants are treated fairly and are looking at what more we can do."

Critics point out that giving more notice to tenants will only go so far in solving the problem. They say the issue of letters being addressed to "the occupier" remains unresolved.

But Shelter's Adam Sampson has a simple message: "It's really important that tenants, if they see a letter like that arriving on the mat, that they should open it."

Repossessions affecting teenagers
Friday, 20 February 2009, 15:19 GMT |  The P Word
How can I avoid repossession?
Wednesday, 29 October 2008, 14:30 GMT |  The P Word
'I'm worried I'll lose my home'
Friday, 24 October 2008, 08:45 GMT |  The P Word
Credit crunch hits homeowners
Thursday, 2 October 2008, 14:55 GMT |  The P Word
'We want justice for Lindsay'
Wednesday, 25 March 2009, 07:05 GMT |  The P Word
Housing waiting list hits new high
Thursday, 19 March 2009, 17:28 GMT |  The P Word

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific