Nearly 50,000 families have been placed at risk of homelessness due to no-fault evictions since 2019, the year the Government promised to abolish them.
Proposed new legislation, introduced in Parliament last week under the Renters Reform Bill, is seeking to reform private renting, crucially by abolishing Section 21.
Background to the data
Data from the House of Commons Library shows that since 2019, 46,940 households in England have been put at risk of homelessness due to a Section 21 notice – the power for landlords to evict their tenants without reasoning and providing them with 2 months to find elsewhere to live. These households make up 15% of all households (133,450) that are facing homelessness.
This data, commissioned by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, is based on figures published by the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC). Councils assess the households and decide if people are at risk of homelessness in the next 56 days and whether it is because they have been issued a Section 21 notice. The figures could therefore underestimate the total number of households at risk of homelessness as they only apply to people who have reached out to their local authority for support.
No-fault evictions and the renters reform bill
The South East and the South West of England, London and the East Midlands all have a higher than average proportion of families left facing homelessness due to no fault evictions. At the end of last year, the homelessness charity Shelter found that the number of people served or threatened with an eviction notice was up 80 per cent at the end of 2022 compared to 2021. In London, the number of landlords filing possession claims – a step in the eviction process – is at its highest level ever.
In April 2019, former Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to scrap Section 21. May launched a consultation paper, which proposed abolition this element of the Housing Act, and this was again promised in the Conservative’s 2019 election manifesto.
The changes have been included in the initial text of the Government’s Renters Reform Bill. Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, has called the bill a “once-in-a-generation overhaul of housing laws” which is set to benefit 11 million people. The scrapping of Section 21 “no-fault” evictions should give renters more security, and has been widely supported by renting campaigners, though there are concerns landlords will still be able to exploit a number of loopholes in the system.
However, the measures have faced opposition from some Tory MPs – leading to concerns that Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove could be forced to water down the plans, despite a claimed commitment to the levelling up agenda.
Wera Hobhouse said “The Prime Minister cannot allow this Bill to be watered down in the slightest. He needs to buck his instincts for weakness, stand up to any pressure from his backbenches and give renters the protections that they deserve.
“Vulnerable renters may finally have the continual anxiety of a potential Section 21 notice lifted off their shoulders. They have done so much damage and need to become a thing of the past.
“This data is a stark reminder why this Bill cannot be allowed to fail and must not be watered down. 43 households a day, including families and vulnerable people, are put at risk of being on the street with nowhere to turn thanks to these cruel eviction notices. It must come to an end and the Renters Reform Bill needs to be the place where this happens.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said “The millions of people renting in England are at last one step closer to fairer, more secure housing. The Renters’ Reform Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to finally fix private renting. A strong bill would be a gamechanger, meaning tenants can live without fear their homes could make them sick, families feel able to put down roots in their communities, and worries about being unfairly evicted are a thing of the past.”
She added “The Renters’ Reform Bill must truly deliver change for renters when it becomes law, and it should be as strong as possible with every loophole closed, so that no renter can be unfairly evicted. The Government must keep renters at the forefront to make sure this bill has the teeth needed for real change.”
Dan Wilson Craw, acting director of Generation Rent, called the reforms “a huge opportunity to improve the lives of the 11 million people who now rent from private landlords in England”.
The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), which represents landlords, has raised concerns that landlords with a “legitimate reason” to evict someone will still be able to “as quickly as possible”.
NRLA chief executive, Ben Beadle stated “Ministers must develop a plan to improve the speed and efficiency with which the courts process possession claims. Although the Government has accepted NRLA calls to digitise cases, staff numbers need to increase in the court system as well to meet the needs of these reforms”.
The renters reform bill looks to provide much needed security to renters. Government support for the bill will demonstrate part of their commitment to levelling up the UK in terms of housing. Renting campaigners are widely welcoming the bill, but contend that it must pass with no loopholes for rogue landlords to exploit.