Each working day in South Australia, four families are forcibly evicted from their homes by bailiffs. The number of forced evictions doubled in the short period between 1997 and 2000. It has remained more or less stable, at 1000 per year or 2% of ending tenancies, since then. The Residential Tenancies Tribunal caseload also doubled over the same period.
Made curious by these statistics, I investigated them further with a geographer colleague who specialises in housing issues, Andrew Beer. For a first study, we were especially interested to examine the supply-side experience of the market and the statutory process. We were able to compile a 'snapshot' of bailiff-assisted evictions during the second quarter of2002, recording all bailiff call-outs during that period and then, using de-identified Tribunal data, profiling the tenancies involved and the process for eviction under the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (SA). Bailiff-assisted evictions are, obviously, a worst case scenario. Most tenants move out long before that point if problems develop with the tenancy. Nevertheless it is the risk of the worst case that should be factored into management calculations. We were keen to see how the statutory Tribunal process was working in practice and where any costs lay. The results in detail can be seen in our report Housing Evictions in South Australia.
This article summarises some of our main findings and reflects briefly on the 'costs' of eviction.