Section 21 evictions forever hang over me - Anna's Story
Generation Rent supporter Anna tells her story of renting while Section 21 'no fault' evictions continue.
I have been renting my studio flat for about two and a half years. I received my first Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice in the summer of 2019, but it turned out to be invalid because the property lacked a mandatory license.
I received my second Section 21 notice in the middle of March last year, shortly before the UK went into lockdown. For me, the timing of this turned out to be fortuitous, because the accompanying eviction ban meant that my landlady didn’t have a chance to apply to the courts before the expiration of the notice. Despite the difficulties and reduced work hours that the series of lockdowns have caused me, the relative housing security the government afforded renters has been the silver lining.
Government research finds half a million private renters struggling
Last month we estimated that 538,000 private renter households had a shortfall between their Local Housing Allowance and the rent they owed.
Now the government's own survey has backed that up - it found 569,000 private renter households were behind on rent or at risk of arrears this summer.
The Ministry of Housing's Household Resilience Study, published today, has revealed the extent of the government's failings in supporting private renters through the pandemic.
What the NRLA has to say about mould
It is winter, so, like clockwork, mould is sprouting on renters' walls and, in response, letting agents are dishing out spurious advice like this:
Our letting agent sent us this letter, to remind us that “lifestyle activities” such as “breathing” may be the cause of condensation in our home. 🙃🙃🙃 pic.twitter.com/U0zgSCbGGY— Lucy Mort (@Lucyhbmort) November 17, 2020
More responsible landlords will look to their professional bodies for guidance to improve their tenants' living conditions. The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) are sharing this factsheet with its members to pass on to renters who are complaining about condensation, damp and mould.
We decided to take a look - and found that it is unfortunately little better than the cowboys' efforts.
We're being evicted for no reason - Irene and Jack's story
My husband and I have had an assured shorthold tenancy since 1997. I’m 65 years of age and my husband is 69. Over the years we have had to carry out repairs to the property ourselves which we have been prepared to do. Since December 2019, our landlord has been continually harassing us, removing our boundary fences and hedges, while we were away prior to lockdown. He has taken control of our garden, leaving us without any privacy whatsoever.
We used to have dogs that enjoyed the freedom of the garden but they have sadly passed away. We cannot get another dog as we wouldn’t be able to keep it contained within the garden. In fact, we now get other neighbours’ dogs and foxes coming into our property and there is nothing to stop them.
Our landlord is also removing our driveway and has left the edges in an unsafe state causing us to suffer twisted ankles and injuries when we take rubbish to our bins. One Saturday afternoon in June our landlord and his son demolished our own shed and greenhouse while our possessions were still in them. They had been in place the whole time we’ve lived here and were put there with his permission.
Everything has been done completely unannounced and behind our backs and seems to have been done to drive us out of the property.
Broken benefits system leaves renters footing the bill for coronavirus
Half a million private renter households are losing £53m a month because the benefits system is failing to cover their rent. That is the shocking finding from our latest report on the impact of coronavirus on private renters.
Between February and August the number of private renters claiming benefits increased by 36% - or 507,000 households.
Two in five private renters (42%) – 1.9m households – now rely on Universal Credit or Housing Benefit to pay their rent, but miserly benefit rates mean that 538,000 households can’t cover their rent.
Half of all private renting families now rely on benefits to pay the rent
The coronavirus has had a devastating impact on families living in private rented homes. Over half are now reliant on benefits to pay the rent – including 1.82 million children. That’s an increase of 23% since February.
Yet, one in five families renting from a private landlord currently receive less in benefits than they need to pay their rent, our research has found. This leaves 378,000 families in England with a shortfall. More disturbingly, this figure includes 750,000 children living in households with this shortfall.
It just got easier to tackle criminal landlords in London
- It is estimated that one in seven homes in England is criminally unsafe - but the good news is it just got easier for tenants in London to do something about this. Sadiq Khan has today brought in a tool for renters to check if their home needs a licence.
Local councils are responsible for identifying and putting a stop to criminal landlords. In some cases, tenants can even claim rent back from a landlord who breaks the law.
But councils are not doing much to help renters identify illegal practice and exercise their rights which means that many landlords are getting away with criminal behaviour.
End of furlough puts 341,000 more renters at risk of debt
More than 340,000 private renters in Great Britain work in sectors at risk of lay-offs when the furlough scheme ends. This will add to the numbers of people who cannot cover their rent because housing benefit levels are inadequate, and are at risk of arrears and eviction.
We are calling on the government to raise Local Housing Allowance to cover the median rent so that families do not get into debt and to set up a fund to clear the debts of renters who have already got into serious arrears by compensating landlords up to 80% of the rent owed. We are also calling for fast-track abolition of Section 21 “no fault” evictions to prevent unnecessary hardship now that courts have reopened.
Renting as a family under Section 21 - Laura's Story
It can be difficult to think back on life before the coronavirus lockdown. But even as long ago as the first week in March, we knew we were on the cusp of it. It was during this time, when the lockdown turned from an ‘if’ to a ‘when’, that my family were greeted with a section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice.
Immediately we began searching for a new home, for ourselves and our two children. Unfortunately, it seemed every renter in Solihull had the same idea as us. With each day bringing us closer to a lockdown, the competition to secure a rented property grew fiercer. One day my partner and I walked away from a viewing and past a rival renter, who proceeded to look from the driveway at the outside of the property and say “yeah I’ll take it” before we had even made it to our car.
I can't save as a renter in London - Adam's story
At the end of January 2020, I was made redundant. However, I was given a much appreciated redundancy package with severance pay, and was able to quickly find a new job to move into. That was however before the coronavirus and lockdown was enforced and, at the end of March, I lost this job as well. I was able to temporarily pay my rent and living costs from my original severance pay, but under the unaffordable rent costs in London, these savings soon dwindled away.
In good faith, and in an effort to avoid debt, I contacted my landlord, requesting that, with the allowances property owners had been given by the Government, I could have a rent reduction until I found another job. My request was met with an outright rejection, and I quickly started receiving aggressive letters from my landlord’s solicitors, demanding that I pay the rent in full. This was impossible, and I was forced to terminate my tenancy in London and move away.
Once again, renters are vulnerable to revenge evictions
After six months of no evictions taking place at all, courts have reopened and landlords can resume the legal process of evicting their tenants.
Despite the government's insistence that "the most egregious" cases will be prioritised, tenants can still be booted out without a reason, with no ability to appeal it and only six weeks' grace if they face "extreme hardship".
This is possible because of Section 21, the law that the government promised to abolish last year. Today it is exactly one year since the government closed it's consultation on proposals to change the law, and we are still waiting for it to publish the Renters Reform Bill to make it all happen. Join our campaign to get Section 21 scrapped.
55,000 households left with no protection
The eviction moratorium ends on Sunday, and courts start hearing landlord possession cases again on Monday.
When it extended the ban for one final month, the government also said it would extend the notice period for most evictions from three months to six months (and did the following week). This will help a lot of people, but it doesn't help renters who were served notice up to 29 August and have not already moved out - an estimated 55,000 households.