No-fault evictions have renters living in fear – will the PM keep his promise?

Losing a private tenancy is the second biggest cause of homelessness in England – the prime minister must recognise that a broken renting system is holding tenants back

Polly Neate
Tuesday 10 May 2022 09:57
<p>A safe and secure home shouldn’t be a luxury, it’s a basic need if children are to thrive</p>

A safe and secure home shouldn’t be a luxury, it’s a basic need if children are to thrive

It’s three years since the government first committed to scrapping Section 21 no-fault evictions. Since then, every seven minutes a private renter has been slapped with a no-fault eviction notice by their landlord – and more renters are being pushed into homelessness as a result.

England’s 11 million private renters have waited long enough for overdue reforms. Will the prime minister betray private renters or fulfil his long-promised pledge to scrap Section 21 no-fault evictions in today’s Queen’s Speech?

Section 21 no-fault evictions are grossly unfair because landlords do not have to give any reason for evicting their tenants, and renters are powerless to challenge them. Nearly 230,000 private renters have been served a Section 21 eviction notice since the government promised to scrap them in April 2019. This is despite an eviction ban being in place for 14 months of that three-year period due to the pandemic.

We’ve seen positive reports that the government is set to act on its 2019 manifesto pledge by abolishing Section 21 evictions in today’s Queen’s Speech. Conservative MPs have backed the government’s proposed policy, and I stood next to Michael Gove a few weeks ago when he said that the vulnerability of private renters is “indefensible”. But while the government has dragged its feet on this issue, millions of renters are stuck living in limbo, unable to put down roots for fear they could be kicked out of their home at any moment.

The prime minister must recognise that a broken renting system is holding tenants back. A quarter of private renters – 2.8 million people – have lived in three or more rented homes in the last five years alone. The same can also be said for one in five renting families with children. It’s clear that in its current form private renting is a far cry from offering the stable home that is the foundation for a happy, prosperous life and a stable childhood.

The constant upheaval of having to move to new rental after new rental has a devastating impact. The last thing anyone wants to do is uproot their entire life and use their savings to cover the costs of another move they don’t want to make. It’s particularly damaging for families who are forced to leave their support networks, sacrifice the space their children need, or change their children’s school.

One family contacted Shelter after being handed a no-fault eviction for the third time. Like many other families we speak to, they couldn’t face the stress of their case going through the courts so moved as soon as they could. But it meant leaving their close-knit community and having to cut back on essentials to cover a more expensive rent. Their children have never known a stable home and this latest eviction hit them hard. The children routinely ask their parents if they will be forced to move again. A safe and secure home shouldn’t be a luxury, it’s a basic need if children are to thrive.

Yet no-fault eviction notices are dropping on renters’ doormats daily. Our frontline services are supporting renters scrambling to find a home after being told to up sticks with just eight weeks’ notice.

Losing a private tenancy is the second biggest cause of homelessness in England, and homelessness due to a no-fault eviction is up 37 per cent on pre-pandemic levels. Recently, the ONS published figures showing half of renters could not afford an unexpected, but necessary, expense of £850.

Yet rents are rising, and the average cost of moving home for a private renter, including deposits and rent in advance, is nearly double that: £1,650. Renters will seriously struggle to stump up the cost of unexpected moves with the cost of living crisis raging – and these unnecessary evictions will tip some into otherwise avoidable homelessness.

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Another couple our services have worked with ended up homeless with no other option but to move into a hotel, after struggling to save up for a deposit after a no-fault eviction. Once homeless, the council supported them to secure a new rental by helping them with their first month’s rent and deposit – but it shouldn’t have come to this.

It’s clear renters desperately need more security in these very uncertain times. There’s never been a more pressing case for the government to get on with scrapping Section 21. The clock is ticking, and every seven minutes wasted will see another renter put at risk of losing their home.

We, and the 11 million private renters in this country, have made ourselves heard. Now we need the prime minister to make good on his promise by introducing a ban on no-fault evictions with a Renters’ Reform Bill as an urgent priority in this parliament.

Every renter in the country who has been counting on the government for the last three years deserves for this to be passed into law as quickly as possible.

Polly Neate is the chief executive of Shelter

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