350,000 renters at risk of eviction in last year, Shelter warns
Around 350,000 renters in England have been put at risk of eviction in the last year, according to analysis from Shelter.
The number of renters at risk of losing their home over the last year is equivalent to more than the population of Leicester, the housing charity said.
Shelter, whose figures include private and social renters, named Enfield in London as the country's top "home threat hotspot" - with one in 23 rented homes there under threat of eviction in the last year.
Its analysis of figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) found more than 148,000 renting households in England were put at risk of losing their home between April 2015 and March 2016. This equates to one in every 55 renting households across England.
The MoJ figures record possession claims, which are the first stage in a court process which can ultimately end with the loss of a home.
Shelter said the issue stretches beyond London, with places such as Luton, Thurrock and Peterborough also making up the country's top 20 "home threat hotspots".
The charity said in the past year alone, over 9,800 people facing eviction have called the Shelter helpline for advice and 500,000 people have visited the Shelter website's eviction advice pages.
Nadeem Khan, a helpline adviser for Shelter, said: "Every day at Shelter we hear from people who are struggling to keep up with their rent, many in total desperation after the court papers land on their doormat and the threat of being evicted becomes very real."
Shelter said if someone is struggling to pay their housing costs, they should get help as soon as possible. Paying rent to keep a roof over your head should always be the number one priority over debts such as credit cards and phone bills, it said.
It said those struggling should respond to letters and phone calls from their landlord or letting agent and keep records of them.
If the situation ends up in court, renters should make sure they attend a possession hearing so they can put their case to the judge, Shelter said.
Shelter said people facing eviction can get help from its website at www.shelter.org.uk/advice.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) pointed out that many claims started in the courts will not lead to evictions.
A DCLG spokesman said: "The latest quarterly figures show that all stages of landlord repossessions have gone down compared to the same time last year.
"We've introduced measures to ensure tenants get a fair deal, are aware of their rights and are protected from retaliatory evictions.
"We've also doubled the housing budget and are investing £8 billion to build 400,000 affordable homes, including quality homes for rent."