A WEST Somerset woman faces becoming homeless when she is evicted later this month because too few houses remain available in her village as they are bought up for second homes or Airbnb holiday lets.
Pam Leach has rented her home in Doverhay, Porlock, since returning to the UK from the Caribbean four-and-a-half years ago.
Now she is being evicted - just before ‘no fault evictions’ are banned under new legislation currently going through Parliament.
Bailiffs have told Ms Leach they will be returning on July 27 to remove her from the terraced house in which she lives with her three cats.
Ms Leach, a retired graphics designer, was born in a National Trust cottage in nearby Allerford and brought up in West Somerset before moving to live in Barbados.
On her UK return she was unable to secure a National Trust home and found her options for renting elsewhere in the district were limited because the housing pool had been reduced by ‘outsiders’ buying up properties to use at weekends or to let for holidays.
But having found a property in Doverhay she expected that she would be able to settle and live comfortably with her cats Teddy, who is 17 years old and moved with her from Barbados, four-year-old Oliver, who came from nearby Luxborough, and Liquorice, a 22-month-old which she calls ‘Rishi’.
Ms Leach said: “I just do not know what I am going to do. I feel awful.
“I have been to Citizen’s Advice, but they did not have anybody who could help.
“I have been to Somerset Council’s offices in Williton to talk to the homelessness team and they have not come back with anything and were no help at all.
“I cannot find anywhere else to live.
“Everything locally up to about £865,000 has been bought up by people from out of Porlock mainly using them for weekends or once a month, not even living in them properly.”
Ms Leach said she had been living on her savings because her pension was so small, and had carried out tasks such as gardening, landscaping, and painting to help her landlords.
She said her landlords told her they were making her move because they wanted to downsize and to live in the property themselves.
However, Ms Leach rued the fact that it was happening just before Parliament is bringing in legislation to prevent ‘no fault evictions’.
“I have not defaulted on a penny,” she added.
Parish council chairman Cllr Duncan McCanlis, speaking in a personal capacity, said the issue of rural properties being bought up for Airbnb holidays or as second homes was being looked at by Exmoor’s newly-created Local Community Network (LCN) of parish councils and local agencies.
Cllr McCanlis said: “It is a major issue in the village, I absolutely understand that.
“We are really well aware of it, but it is outside the parish council’s powers and we have other priorities, so we will be pursuing it through the LCN.”
Earlier this year, West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger backed Government proposals for changes to regulation in the rented housing sector to curb a proliferation of short-term holiday lets.
Mr Liddell-Grainger said as well as affecting people in Ms Leach’s position the trend also made it difficult for businesses to recruit staff who were unable to find anywhere local to live.
The Renters (Reform) Bill, which will stop ‘no fault evictions’, is expected to become law by the autumn of this year.