Publication: Tackling housing debt and eviction

Enhancing occupier engagement through improved communication and advice

Author: University of Southampton


The loss of a home through eviction, and subsequent consequences, can be financially and emotionally devastating. The cost-of-living crisis has placed new financial pressures on low-income households. This research identifies ways to avoid eviction proceedings through measures that improve meaningful communication between those in housing debt, housing providers, and advice services.

Key findings

Based on 139 survey responses and 53 interviews with occupiers, debt advisers, legal practitioners, and housing providers, we found:

Barriers to seeking advice and support in resolving housing debt 

• A majority of respondents (56%) did not or were unable to access debt advice from a range of providers including charities, local councils and online providers.
• Respondents were deterred from accessing support by the lack of opportunity for face-to-face discussion of their issues, the difficulty of getting through on the telephone, and their awareness that advice services are overwhelmed.
• They also felt frustrated that system solutions to complex problems, notably payment plans, do not help to resolve underlying causes of debt (for example, insufficient income to meet bills).
• Local authority housing officers reported that changes to working practices, accelerated during COVID, have led to a depersonalised approach to resolving arrears, with fewer frontline staff and more reliance on remote engagement practices. 

These changes have undermined their relationship with tenants and the level of trust and confidence that tenants have in them as sources of help and advice.

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