Generation Rent supporter James* discusses the high cost of unwanted moves, and the toll they have on renting families.
Firstly, this isn’t my real name, I’ve disguised it because we live in a rural area and if I am identified as the source of this story, it will jeopardise our search for a new home as we will be seen as ‘troublemaking’ tenants. That very fact, tells you how nefarious Section 21 is as a piece of legislation.
We moved to an English market town, from Scotland, in 2014. Had we known what we would be letting ourselves in for we would never have made the move. In Scotland, you see, there is now no Section 21 and since we moved to England, we are now on our third.
We’re a professional family, in our 50s with a six figure income who have been unable to get on the housing ladder for a number of reasons. We have two kids at school and a well-behaved dog. I am disabled. We have our own furniture. We decided to move to the north of England in 2014 to be closer to my wife’s family, we found a suitable rental property in 2014 and had three happy years there. This was until the 4th January 2017, when we were issued with a Section 21 notice, giving us eight weeks to pack up and move. The landlord, you see, was getting divorced. We moved into another home, 15 miles away from the schools and, despite the distance and the disrepair of this large, draughty, house, we made it our home. In February 2020, our landlord presented us with a Section 21 – no reason given, but we suspect holiday home rental. We had eight weeks to move again.
As the country went into lockdown, we thought that we had hit the jackpot when a local landed estate offered us a property and best of all, assured us that we could stay here as long as we wanted. We were specific on this: we could not afford another move. We moved in May 2020 and due to COVID rules did all the lifting ourselves. It took about thirty 50-mile round trips with a horse box to move our four bedroom farmhouse into the new six bedroom one. On the assurance we could stay here long term, we spent thousands on furniture to fill the new house. Then, three weeks ago, the Estate served a Section 21 on us, no reason given, although we suspect a family member wants to move in, reneging on their original commitment to us.
The housing supply in this area is dismal, being on the edge of a National Park; many suitable homes have been converted into holiday lets. Furthermore, when we recently found a suitable place, the only one of its type to come up locally in the last 2 months, according to the agents, our application was rejected. No one explained why but three Section 21s in 4 years makes us a ‘risk’, according to some local agents. There is even a dearth of 3 bedroom houses in the area.
We have until December and have been told that we are ‘lucky’ because COVID gives us 4 months instead of 2. Once we have made this move we will have spent a total of £21,000 on moving costs since 2017. That is all of our deposit money gone, even if we could afford to buy, there is no way we could complete before December.
I’ve shared our story with Generation Rent to make the point that it doesn’t matter where you are on the income ladder, Section 21 and the housing crisis is hitting people at all levels, it is creating a two-tier society. 14th Century peasants had more security than 21st century tenants. Now, we are fortunate because we will be able to afford somewhere, even if it is a temporary solution, and there are others who don’t have our resources. Of course, in pursuing some temporary solution we will be pricing others out of a property that could be more suitable for them. However, the impact, cost, stress and disruption to our lives are as real as they are for everyone else putting huge strains on every aspect of our lives.
In the county we live in 64% of the population rent. Why should their right to a home be any less than that of an owner occupier? Why should good tenants, who look after the property, spend money and time on the garden, pay their rent on time and behave themselves, lose their homes at the whim of landlords whose motivations, often down to pure greed, can be hidden behind a Section 21? That is why I will be campaigning for Generation Rent and demanding a fair housing market for everyone.