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Possession: Statistics and solutions

Statistics collated by London’s Poverty Profile Report for 2014-15 have disclosed that in this period a staggering 27,000 outright possession orders were made in London. What perhaps is most interesting from the findings is that 15,700 of these were from accelerated possession claims. By our maths that’s almost 58%. It is clear from the data that the number of landlord possession orders made following accelerated possession claims is on the rise.

Official government statistics for the first quarter of 2016 have confirmed that the number of possession orders made in respect of private sector tenants continues to increase. It is reported that 38,053 landlord possession claims (in all possession matters) were issued between January and March 2016 in England and Wales. Of these a total of 29,049 resulted in possession orders. 39% or put another way, 11,329 of these were suspended possession orders. That would indicate that almost 47% of all possession claims issued between January and March 2016 resulted in outright possession orders.

The statistics emphasise two clear trends:

  1. The numbers of landlord possession orders made via accelerated possession claims are consistently increasing. In London itself, 6,700 more possession orders were granted compared to a decade ago.
  2. There appears to more consistency and stability in the social housing sector in terms of the steady numbers of possession orders applied for by social landlords. This however begs the questions whether this is attributable to an overall reduction or just due to the ever depleting numbers of properties in the social housing sector.

The evidence also demonstrates that it really is not “game over” if possession proceedings have been issued. The statistics above show 53% of tenants facing possession avoided an outright possession order. As both a firm and as regular attendees at Court duty schemes, time and again we see tenants who fail to actively seek assistance with their possession matters. The reasons for this appear to be:

  1. The misconception that legal aid does not exist for possession proceedings. Wrong! Possession is one of the areas that have been left untouched by the LASPO changes. Legal aid is available to defend possession proceedings provided you are financially eligible.
  2. The misapprehension that there will be no defence to the possession proceedings particularly in accelerated possession proceedings where the matter is dealt with on the papers without a hearing. Wrong! Not only are there often arguable defences but defending possession proceedings has become easier with the introduction of the Deregulation Act 2015. We may be able to assist with an array of defences ranging from the failure to protect the deposit, to preventing retaliatory evictions where the property is in disrepair, to failure to provide the correct notice.

Litigating in person without the benefit of legal representation can be a daunting step especially when faced with the prospect of losing one’s home which naturally carries emotional involvement. It is therefore crucial to get independent legal advice when facing a possession claim. Even if a possession order has been made, all is not lost.