Our campaign to end unfair evictions has caught the attention of Parliament. On Thursday, MPs are debating “the use of Section 21 evictions in the private rented sector”.
We’re calling for the abolition of Section 21, and the government is considering responses to its proposed three-year tenancies. This is the first opportunity MPs will have to air their views on reform, and quiz the Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler, on her department’s proposals. We’ll get a sense of what there is cross-party support for.
Ahead of the debate, we wanted to take a look at what we know about evictions and their extent. It's important to note that the problems with Section 21 go far beyond the basic number of evictions. The threat of a no-fault eviction discourages tenants from treating the property as their long term home, and even from complaining about disrepair.Read more
Today is the 30th anniversary of the Housing Act 1988 receiving Royal Assent and becoming law. The Act introduced the assured shorthold tenancy, and, with it, Section 21, the ability for landlords to evict without needing a reason.
As part of the End Unfair Evictions campaign we are calling for Section 21 to be scrapped, and demanded this in our response to the government’s recent consultation on longer tenancies. In our response we also set out how the private rental market should work once Section 21 is history.Read more
Right to Buy was electoral gold dust to the Conservatives back in the 1980s, but since council homes were sold off unreplaced, and the social housing sector dwindled, it has lost its lustre. With housing policy the key to winning over today’s 18 to, er, 45 year olds, it’s no wonder some in the party have taken up alchemy.
Onward, a think tank peopled by former government advisers, thinks it has the answer, which is about as close to Right to Buy for private tenants as we’re likely to get. Because the property is not the state’s to sell, it’s merely Chance to Buy.Read more
At the Labour party conference this week, delegates adopted a motion to (among other things) "Help private renters with an end to ‘no fault’ evictions, controls on rents and new minimum standards, including three year tenancies as standard."
The BBC reported on this commitment, but beyond the wording of this motion and John Healey's speech, we haven't had any more detail of what this would entail.
Luckily, Sadiq Khan has obliged. While the Mayor of London is not a member of the Shadow Cabinet, last week's publication of his response to the government's consultation on longer tenancies revealed that he is calling for much the same thing, plus some more idea of what it might look like in practice.Read more
We kind of knew this already, but Labour is officially backing our campaign to end Section 21 and will scrap landlords' ability to evict tenants without giving a reason. It was reported by the BBC this morning, was part of the shadow Housing Secretary John Healey's speech in the conference centre, and then a motion on housing that included it was passed.
This follows members of the End Unfair Evictions doing a lot of work behind the scenes to successfully get local Labour parties to support the motion.
An even bigger piece of news was a £20m pot to jumpstart tenants' unions in the UK, reported by the Independent.Read more
On Wednesday, the Sun reported that 10 Downing Street and the Treasury are blocking moves to legislate for longer tenancies.
Although the recently closed consultation left open the question of making the new tenancy mandatory or voluntary, the same newspaper had previously reported that the Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire, wanted all tenants to get it.
That sets up a big internal government battle over tenants' rights as the Conservative Party worries more and more about winning over younger voters.Read more
As the consultation period on the government's proposals for longer tenancies draws to a close - the deadline to respond is this Sunday - we are handing in our End Unfair Evictions petition to the Ministry of Housing today. It passed 50,000 signatures on Tuesday, helped along by #VentYourRent.
And if that wasn't enough to make the government pay attention, new polling from Survation finds that our demands have the backing of the wider public, including Conservative voters.
Section 21 is the leading cause of statutory homelessness. This law allows evictions with no reason needed, and this is one more reason why we should scrap it.
To some extent, this is stating the bleeding obvious. Since 2012, the end of a private tenancy has been the leading cause of homelessness cases accepted by local authorities, but until now no one has specifically pointed the finger at Section 21. Today, we've been able to demonstrate it.
Source: Ministry of HousingRead more
The following organisations support the abolition of section 21 no-fault evictions:
Organisations fighting poverty and homelessness:
Salvation Army UK
Tweeted backing campaign in July 2018:
Great to see @LondonAssembly backing @genrentuk's campaign to end no fault evictions, which currently represents one of the biggest causes of homelessness across the country. #endsection21
“In England and Wales, the combination of reliance on short fixed-term tenancies and rising rents has made more people homeless through tenancies ending. So, while private rented tenancies often provide homeless people with settled accommodation for a period of time, they can also be the cause of repeat homelessness. … To improve security of tenure the Westminster and Welsh Governments should introduce a new standard private rented tenancy. There should be limits on annual rent increases (see the following recommendation) and an open-ended period where the landlord could only give notice by using specified grounds. … Open-ended or longer-term tenancies are particularly important for homeless people who need stability to help them rebuild their lives”.
‘Everybody In: How to End Homelessness in Great Britain’ (June 2018)
Zacchaeus 2000 Trust
We help people on low incomes fight unfair evictions and find secure rented accommodation, so we're joining @genrentuk's call for Govt to #endsection21.
The MHCLG should legislate to improve security of tenure and standards in the private rented sector, through ending no-fault evictions and introducing three year tenancies as standard.
Organisations advocating for older people:
Argues that “Section 21 notices (where tenants with shorthold tenancy leases can be evicted without ground or reason) should be abolished”(‘Unsuitable, insecure and substandard homes: The barriers faced by older private renters’, March 2018). Quotes an older renter:
“The worry is the rent going up and when they’re going to chuck you out... that is the most worrying bit… All I want to do is live the rest of my days comfortably and peacefully. I’ve got a nice flat, nice garden… You keep moving around, and at my age I don’t fancy it much.”
London Age UK
Recommends “Abolishing Section 21 notices whereby AST tenants can be evicted without reason”(‘“Living in Fear” – experiences of older private renters in London’, September 2017). Their research found that, for older renters, “the prospect of a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction was a constant threat hanging over their heads”. Due to:
“fear of eviction, many [older] AST tenants were reluctant to contact their landlord about essential repairs and maintenance. They reported that they would rather take a financial hit or live in substandard accommodation than ‘raise their head above the parapet’.”
Organisations advocating for children:
Published an August 2018 blog post arguing:
children in families renting privately do not have their rights to home and community met, as do their peers whose parents own their home. These children miss out on the wealth of benefits that secure housing delivers for a child’s development and life chances because we currently privilege a landlord’s right to evict over a family’s right to a home. It’s time to change this. That’s why Children England supports the campaign to End Unfair Evictions and abolish Section 21.
Human rights organisations and law centres:
Greater Manchester Law Centre
Argue in a August 2018 piece:
The right to decent housing is a basic human right. Far from guaranteeing such a right, UK law seems designed to obviate it. The absence of rent controls, the unfettered use of property for the purpose of financial speculation by investors, the removal of the powers and the finance for local authorities to build the housing their communities need – all are examples of this.
Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 is a particularly vicious demonstration of the point. It allows a landlord to evict a tenant without any requirement to specify or prove a reasonable ground for repossession – or, indeed, any ground at all. This unilateral and unrestrained power creates insecurity and a real risk of homelessness for blameless tenants who dare to complain about unacceptable living conditions or unfair rent rises.
State on their website:
We are part of #EndSection21 campaign to demand the abolishment of no-fault evictions of Section 21, which are contrary to the right to adequate housing.
Argues in a June 2018 leader that:
the government should legislate to abolish Section 21 evictions. Scotland already has, introducing a system that allows landlords to evict tenants on the basis of 18 reasonable grounds. For instance, if the owners want to live in the property, or if the tenant has been engaging in antisocial behaviour. This is a more sensible and balanced system.
‘Let Off’, The Times, 16.6.18
Political parties / bodies:
The Labour Party
Responding to (July 2018) government proposals for three-year tenancies, shadow housing secretary John Healey said:
“Any fresh help for renters is welcome, but this latest promise is meaningless if landlords can still force tenants out by hiking up the rent.
That’s why Labour’s new rights for renters includes controls on rents as well as an end to no-fault evictions and protection against substandard rented homes.”
‘Landlords react with fury to three-year tenancy plan’, The Guardian, 1.7.18
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had previously pledged “to scrap 'no fault' evictions to tip housing rules back in favour of renters”, in a December 2017 interview with The Independent. He commented:
At the moment we have a largely deregulated private rented sector in Britain and people can be evicted or have their tenancy terminated at the end of six months for no reason whatsoever.
The stress levels on people concerned is incredible. I get it all the time from constituents because a third of my constituents are private renters. I am very determined to bring some order and stability to their lives by longer tenancies and eviction that can only be there for good reason rather than just what can be retaliatory eviction.
Arguing that ‘Labour should promise to scrap Section 21 evictions’ (Labour List, 25.5.18), Shelly Asquith noted:
Our housing pledges at the last general election focussed on those more home-secure voters less likely to back Labour, as well as the traditional core vote that had previously flirted with UKIP. But if Labour wants to give all workers job security from day one, why not tenants, too? Being sacked and being evicted are both incredibly disruptive life experiences, and both policies would shift significant power in society into the hands of ordinary working people.
The Green Party
“A move away from short-term tenancies towards the right for renters to stay in their home so long as they pay their rent and abide by their contract, unless landlords move in or sell the property. This would start with the abolition of the ability for landlords to issue ‘no-fault’ eviction notices, bringing us in line with most other European countries.”
‘Britain’s broken housing market: lessons we could learn from other EU Countries’, (February 2018) by Tom Chance for Greens in the European Parliament
Passed a motion in July 2018 stating:
This Assembly welcomes the campaign to end section 21 – the clause of the Housing Act 1988 that allows private landlords to evict tenants without reason.
We acknowledge that the threat of a no-fault eviction causes insecurity and stress for Londoners who rent privately and can discourage tenants from complaining about substandard housing.
We welcome the action taken by the Scottish government to restrict no-fault evictions.
We urge the Mayor to state his backing for the campaign to abolish section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and to lobby government for this change in the law.
Sian Berry AM, who proposed the motion said:
“Having to move at short notice is one of the worst parts of being a private renter and ending section 21 would make a dramatic difference and solve this problem – it would also align our policies with other countries.”
Tom Copley AM, who seconded the motion said:
"It is unacceptable that landlords can use section 21 to evict tenants for no reason. Private tenants deserve security to protect them from arbitrary or revenge eviction, the fear of which makes tenants reluctant to come forward to complain about substandard housing.”
‘Stop landlords evicting tenants without reason’, London Assembly, 5.7.18
Recommends the government:
“Introduce indefinite leases as the norm… Tenants should ordinarily be allowed to remain in the property (subject to observing the terms of the lease) for as long as they wish, enabling them to make a home of their rented accommodation. This would give them the security of tenure that is found in the owner-occupied sector from which many are increasingly shut out. The evidence from overseas is that indefinite tenancies are not antithetical to a well-functioning private rented sector, as long as investors – and mortgage lenders – recognise the need to take a long-term approach to their business”.
‘The Future of Private Renting Shaping a fairer market for tenants and taxpayers’, by Daniel Bentley, Jan 2015
Lists options for improving renter security including “Introduce indeterminate tenancies as the sole form of private rental contract available in England and Wales, following Scotland’s lead” (‘Home improvements: action to address the housing challenges faced by young people’, April 2018):
“Private renters have significantly more security of tenure than in England and Wales in almost all comparable countries … landlords have legitimate concerns about longer tenancies, but these pale in comparison with the needs of renters. … when viewed through an intergenerational lens, it is difficult to see why, on balance, the relatively minor problems that greater security of tenure could represent for a small proportion of landlords should prevail over the growing need of private renters to create a stable home. Given that efforts to encourage landlords to offer longer leases voluntarily have proved ineffectual to date, stronger action is needed if risk in the PRS is to be substantially reduced.”