Carlisle’s biggest social landlord has evicted nearly 90 people in the last three and a half years.

Figures obtained exclusively by the News & Star from Riverside reveal a sharp rise in the number of tenants being forced from their home because they fell behind with their rent.

In 29 of the evictions, the need to pay extra rent because of the so-called bedroom tax has been a contributory factor. The highest number of evictions came last year as the landlord – which took over the 6,000 homes previously managed by Carlisle City Council – forced 36 tenants from their home.

One Carlisle based charity said the figures reveal a wider housing crisis, with an increasing number of tenants under financial pressure – partly because of delays in getting benefits.

Cumbria Law Centre last year helped more than 400 tenants avoid eviction, 300 of them in Carlisle. Liverpool based Riverside have faced increased financial pressure in recent months.

Along with other housing associations, it has been forced to cut its rent by four per cent in as many years.

That has left it attempting to plug a £30m gap in its finances.

A Riverside spokeswoman said: “We know times can be tough and people struggle to pay their bills which is why we follow a firm but fair procedure when it comes to missed rent payments or rent arrears. It’s really important that they get in touch with us as early as possible to discuss any problems and arrange a repayment plan as we may be able to help.”

She said their Money Advice Team can work with tenants to set up a plan that helps them manage payments and arrears.

She added: “If tenants don’t respond to any of our attempts to contact them, then we may start legal action.

“This can lead to a court application to take possession of their home, eviction is very the last thing what we want to happen.”

In 2013-14, Riverside evicted 28 tenants, (10 of them bedroom tax related); in 2014-15 25, (10 bedroom tax related); while last year, there were 36 evictions, (eight of them bedroom tax related).

So far this year, there have been six evictions, and only one tenant’s financial woes were bedroom tax related.

A further four people were evicted over the last three and a half years because of antisocial behaviour. Riverside pointed out that it runs a pioneering scheme to help younger tenants who may be struggling to manage their finances and their property.

The association employs Del Parker as an “intensive intervention officer,” and she works with tenants aged between 16-30 who are facing pressures that affect their ability to manage their home.

Pete Moran, from Cumbria Law Centre, said: “Last year, our interventions prevented 440 people from being evicted – and 300 of those tenants were living in Carlisle.

“There are various factors at play. One is that housing associations have been forced to decrease their rents for some tenants and this has turned up the commercial pressure on these housing providers. It may be reasonable to imagine that this has made it harder for them to tolerate rent arrears.

“Another issue is to do with Universal Credit.

“In many cases, there is a six week delay in new claims going through for payment; and if you add administrative errors on top of that people can quickly find themselves facing repossession proceedings. We know that things have got harder for social landlords because of the recent changes in regulations around rent. They are all under serious pressure.”

Cumbria Law Centre can be contacted on 01228 515129.