Backbench MPs attempting to water-down rental reforms leaving victims of abuse vulnerable to eviction

MPs have recently submitted a fresh round of amendments to the Renters (Reform) Bill, currently passing through Parliament. The Bill promises to end Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions as well as bring in other reforms intended to make renting fairer.

While these reforms are important for renters, some backbench MPs are currently working behind the scenes to make changes to the Bill which could leave people in the most vulnerable situations at risk of eviction and homelessness.

The MP for Totnes, Anthony Magnell, has submitted an amendment to the Bill, which is fast growing support amongst numerous backbench MPs in Parliament.

The amendment would enable courts to consider ‘hearsay’ evidence during eviction proceedings on the grounds of anti-social behaviour.

‘Hearsay’ evidence refers to statements made outside of court and can include text messages and conversations made between neighbours.

How does this affect victims of domestic abuse?

Domestic violence is often mischaracterised as anti-social behaviour in eviction proceedings. Victims and survivors of domestic abuse are more likely than other tenants to have anti-social behaviour complaints made against them, often due to the perpetrator’s abusive behaviour. A study from a Housing Association in Wales, for example, found that tenants experiencing domestic abuse were four times more likely to have anti-social behaviour complaints made against them.

This is a dangerous attempt to hijack rental reforms and leave people already in the most vulnerable situations, victims of abuse, in danger of eviction and homelessness.

Tenants need protection not persecution, and this must be reflected within the Renters (Reform) Bill. The government must work to make sure that these vital reforms reach through and protect all renters, especially those most in need of a safe and secure home to rely on, not punish and endanger them further.

The government are already attempting to use the Bill to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants under anti-social behaviour possession proceedings. These changes seek to reduce the notice that landlords must give in anti-social behaviour evictions, as well as lower the threshold needed to evict tenants for anti-social behaviour.

The proposed amendment for courts to consider hearsay evidence would be in addition to these changes.

What do experts supporting victims of abuse have to say?

Generation Rent works alongside Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) to bring about an end to domestic violence from a housing perspective.

Senior Housing Manager, Judith Vickress, at Standing Together and DAHA said: “We are deeply concerned that the introduction of hearsay evidence during eviction proceedings is potentially catastrophic for victims/survivors of domestic abuse including children. Neighbours may well be disturbed by noise and possibly threats, and aggression displayed by those tenants or visitors who are using abuse in the home against their current or former partner.

“They may legitimately report the disturbance and concerns to the landlord or others including the police mistakenly labelling it as anti-social behaviour. It may be that several neighbours have reported or shared with each other the same concerns – community group chats are now commonplace. To be able to use this hearsay evidence to support an eviction on ASB grounds would be wrong.

“It is vital that landlords and professionals who may become involved, have the knowledge to seek to identify and understand the cause of the issue that has been labelled as anti-social behaviour so that where it is rooted in domestic abuse, appropriate action can be taken against the perpetrator and, crucially, the victim/survivor(s) including children can be safeguarded. Victims/survivors of domestic abuse should not face homelessness because of the actions of their abuser but they are on a daily basis.”

The government must:

  • Not allow backbench MPs to hijack the Renters (Reform) Bill and introduce dangerous changes to the law.
  • Roll back on proposals to make it easier to evict tenants using anti-social behaviour grounds which could leave victims of abuse vulnerable to eviction and homelessness.
  • Introduce a pre-eviction protocol to ensure that claims of anti-social behaviour have been investigated and where a potential link to domestic abuse is identified, victims have been offered support including referrals to domestic abuse services.

Read more about the study conducted by Gentoo and SafeLives surrounding the link between anti-social behaviour complaints and domestic violence here.


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