The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has challenged the Joseph Rowntree Foundation after it published a ‘misleading and distorted’ report into evictions.

In a letter, RLA chairman Alan Ward asks new chief executive Campbell Robb, to explain how the foundation concluded that the number of evictions was greater in the PRS than the social sector, when official figures from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) show the opposite to be true.

The study by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research for the JFR, was published on Sunday, and claims that more than 40,000 tenants in England were evicted in 2015.

The research seems to confirm fears that a combination of rising costs and falling state support would lead to a rise in people being forced out of their homes.

Mr Ward wrote: "Whilst the RLA is well aware of the impact of recent welfare reforms, we are seriously concerned about the potentially misleading and distorted presentation of official statistics on repossessions."

He has invited Mr Robb to respond to a number of questions.

The report notes that 'the number of tenants evicted by private landlords exceeded the number evicted by social landlords for the first time in 2014.'

But, the Ministry of Justice’s Mortgage and Landlord Possession Statistics break landlord possessions into three groups: social landlord repossessions; private landlord repossessions; and possessions 'using the accelerated procedure which can be used by both private and social sector landlords.'

The Ministry of Justice data does not distinguish between which types of landlord use the accelerated procedure, Mr Ward says.

The Ministry of Justice’s January-March 2017 mortgage and landlord possession statistics show the number of landlord possession claims in the county courts of England and Wales by type of procedure and landlord.

Since 2014, the results clearly show social sector landlords have made more claims to repossess a property than private sector landlords.

Mr Ward said: "This would be the case even if every claim using the accelerated procedure was undertaken by private sector landlords.

"I would therefore be grateful if you could provide an explanation as to how JRF has arrived at the conclusion that 'the number of tenants evicted by private landlords exceeded the number evicted by social landlords for the first time in 2014'.

The press release to accompany the JRF’s report also noted that “Over 40,000 tenants were evicted from their homes by landlords in 2015.”

It later goes on to say that: “Of the 40,000 evictions, there were 19,019 repossessions in the social housing sector, and 22,150 in the private rented sector.”

But Mr Ward says such a statement cannot be made based on the figures in the MOJ’s statistics tables accompanying the January-March 2017 mortgage and landlord possession statistics.

This data very clearly shows that since 2014, more bailiffs have been sent to repossess properties in the social rented sector than in the private rented sector.

Mr Ward said: "The only way that it could be shown that there were more bailiffs involved in repossession cases in the private rented sector would be to assume that every accelerated procedure was for the private rented sector which as well as being undocumented is unlikely given the documented balance between private and social landlord evictions.

"I would be grateful therefore if the JRF could make clear where its figures have come from."

He has also requested an explanation as to why, in a report on security of tenure, the JRF has failed to note that, accordingly to the English Housing Survey for 2015/16, the average length of time a tenant has been in their current private rented property is now 4.3 years.

Likewise, the survey showed that 73 per cent of private sector tenants had moved from their previous property because they chose to, 11 per cent said that their landlord or agent ended the tenancy and just 2 per cent said it was because of a rent increase by their landlord.

Likewise, the JRF report failed to report that the National Audit Office has noted that “since 2006, the cost of private rented accommodation has broadly followed changes in earnings across England”, whilst social rents have “increased faster than earnings since 2001-02."

Campbell Robb, chief executive of JRF, said: “The stark figures and harrowing stories show the struggle people on low incomes face in the private rented sector.”

He called for the freeze on housing benefit to be lifted.

“With higher rents, a benefits freeze and impossible choices about what bills to pay, evictions have reached record levels and put families under enormous strain,” he said. “Tenants told us about the misery and insecurity they face.

“The government has made welcome moves to offer renters more protection. But it is intolerable that more than 100 families a day are losing their homes. The government must take immediate action on housing costs. This means lifting the freeze on housing benefit.”

The housing charity Shelter warned last month that more than a million households living in private rented accommodation were at risk of becoming homeless by 2020 because of rising rents, benefit freezes and a lack of social housing.

The charity has calculated that if the housing benefit freeze remains in place as planned – until 2020 – more than a million households, including 375,000 with at least one person in work, could be forced out of their homes.

Anne Baxendale, director of campaigns and policy at Shelter, said: “We are deeply concerned that the current freeze on housing benefit is piling a huge amount of pressure on to thousands of private renters who are already teetering on the brink of homelessness.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “This government is determined to make rental housing more affordable and secure for working people.

"We are investing a record £7.1bn to boost affordable housing, and our housing white paper sets out how we plan to help private sector tenants, including building more homes for rent and banning letting agent fees.

“We continue to spend around £24bn a year to support the most vulnerable through housing benefit and we are providing 30 per cent of the savings from the local housing allowance freeze to those areas with high rents.

“We have also changed the law to stop revenge evictions [when a landlord evicts in response to a complaint], given councils £12m to tackle rogue landlords and will give councils stronger powers to ban and convict the worst offenders.”