The Government will scrap section 21, ending ‘no fault’ evictions in England that have caused misery and hardship for millions of private renters and eroded our communities. This morning's announcement also said insecure fixed-term tenancies will go and a new, open-ended tenancy will be created.
This really is fantastic news for private renters. Section 21 allows landlords to evict without providing a reason and stops private renters from asking for repairs and enforcing their rights for fear of revenge eviction. Section 21 means tenants can be turfed out of their homes and neighbourhoods with just two months’ notice, and the anxiety and stress that the knowledge this can happen to you causes is very tangible, particularly for families and older renters.
These unfair, unplanned evictions force people into debt, and are a leading cause of the awful levels of homelessness which we can all see around us. And the excessive flexibility that section 21 gives landlords encourages the buy-to-let market, which has driven up prices and locked so many of us out of homeownership.
At Generation Rent we’ve been calling for section 21 to be abolished for years, and last summer we joined forces with London Renters Union, ACORN, Tenants Union UK, and the New Economics Foundation to launch the End Unfair Evictions campaign.
With the help of our amazing activists and supporters we collected 50,000 signatures on a petition to Housing Secretary James Brokenshire calling for an end to section 21 and thousands also wrote to their MPs and into a government consultation on security of tenure for private renters. We trained up tenants to speak to the media about their own section 21 experiences, and the London Mayor along with 13 councils across the country have formally backed the campaign to end no-fault evictions, with many more in the process of doing so.
It’s also been great to have a diverse range of organisations join our call to end section 21; last year our campaign got support from Independent Age, Centrepoint, Children England, Crisis, and even the Times. Shelter and IPPR came out for an end to section 21 in January, and in March the Centre for Social Justice also said section 21 needs to go.
Today our hard work is paying off. The Conservative government announced this morning that private renters in England will be able to stay in their homes as long as they like without being locked in, unless the landlord proves legitimate grounds for possession. And in Wales on Saturday, the First Minister announced an end to no-fault eviction for Welsh tenants.
One in five people are now private renting, and that figure is much higher in some areas. Politicians are realising that we are a growing political force to be reckoned with, and they can no longer ignore our calls for a radical overhaul to make private renting a tenure fit to live in in the 21st century.
The announcement that the government will end section 21 evictions and create open-ended tenancies is brilliant, but it’s also just the start. We’ve got to make sure that the detail of this policy is right for renters, and we’ll be working with government and feeding into their forthcoming consultation on this.
For example, we know they’ll allow grounds for landlords to evict if they want to sell the property or move back in, so we need make sure that tenants evicted for these reasons get a longer notice period than the current two months, compensation to mitigate the financial hardship of an unwanted move, and that there are safeguards such as requiring landlord to prove they really do intend to sell. We can learn from Scotland, where open-ended tenancies were introduced in 2017, to ensure that the new tenancy achieves its potential for renters. We also need to make sure that rent rises are capped or can be effectively challenged within the new tenancy.
Ending no fault evictions won’t make the difference needed if landlords can increase the rent by hundreds of pounds a month to drive out tenants economically if they report a leak.
We’ll be working with private renters to get the details of this new tenancy right and ensure tenants can easily feed into the government consultation when that comes out. Make sure you’re signed up to our mailing list if you’re keen to feed in your own experiences. In the meantime, a well-deserved pat on the back for all our amazing campaign partners and supporters. The announcement that section 21 will be scrapped is a huge victory for private renters. A home where you feel secure is vital for all of us if we are to thrive in our lives, to our families, and our communities, and today we’re a step closer to this.