End of Section 21 just the beginning, say campaigners

18 April 2019, Katie Coyne

Group of campaigners

Victory over the scrapping of Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions was hard won but campaigners say more must be done.

The government plans to get rid of Section 21 and introduce open-ended tenancies for private renters in England. Some 11 million people rely on housing in the private rented sector across the UK. The UK is one of the only countries in Europe to allow landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason.

Rising homelessness and outrage over landlords taking 'revenge evictions' after tenants complain about squalid housing conditions has swelled support for the campaign to get rid of Section 21.

The End Unfair Evictions campaign, led by renters' rights group Generation Rent – made up of Tenants Union UK, London Renters Union, the ACORN tenants union and thinktank the New Economics Foundation – collected 50,000 signatures in ten days in support of abolishing it.

The communities secretary, James Brokenshire, commented on the news: “We are making the biggest change to the private rental sector in a generation. We are creating homes, opportunities and thriving communities, where people can come together and put down roots, bound by a strong sense of belonging.”

Unusually, prime minister Teresa May also commented. She said: “This important step will not only protect tenants from unethical behaviour, but also give them the long-term certainty and the peace of mind they deserve.”

Generation Rent director Dan Wilson Craw said the news was fantastic, adding: “We're so proud of the thousands of renters who've led this campaign, signing petitions, contacting their MPs and councillors and sharing their own stories of section 21 evictions and their harmful impact.

“The 11 million private renters in England are a growing political force and together we can win changes that will transform private renting into a tenure that is fit for purpose in the 21st century."

CIEH housing policy manager Tamara Sandoul said: "Housing conditions and tenant protections live side by side.

“Tenants have long been put off making legitimate complaints about poor conditions and disrepair due to the fear of being evicted for no reason and at short notice. We welcome the government's bold move to end Section 21 evictions.

“This is a big step forward and should give tenants greater security, which they will need in order to challenge poor conditions.

“However, we also recognise that there will be legitimate reasons for landlords to recover their property. These reasons should also be properly explored and addressed in the proposals."

Under the proposed changes landlords will have to provide a concrete, evidenced reason for bringing a tenancy to an end. Ministers will also amend the Section 8 eviction process so owners can regain their property if they want to sell or move into it. Court processes are to be speeded up so landlords can take action if tenants are in arrears or damage the property.

London Renters Union spokesperson Amina Gichinga said: “This campaign success is a vital first step to ending profiteering from housing and towards a housing model based on homes for people not profit.

“However, without serious rent controls, housing remains unaffordable in our city and landlords will still be able to force us out to make way for people who can afford higher rents. Urgent action is needed to stop social cleansing and the violent displacement of working class people and migrants.”

New Economics Foundation housing organiser Heather Kennedy – who has been evicted twice under Section 21, once after just finding out she was pregnant – said: “Unregulated and unaffordable rents mean that most renters work hard to do little other than line their landlords' pockets. Even if Section 21 is repealed, landlords can still use rent hikes to effectively evict tenants.

“Rent controls are the norm in Europe, and if the government is serious about improving life for renters, it must follow suit and urgently impose rent controls which bring rents down and make renting affordable.”

Some 13 local authorities also backed the End Unfair Evictions campaign: Swindon Council; Forest of Dean Council; Merton Council; Milton Keynes Council; Lambeth Borough Council; Lewisham Borough Council; Southwark Borough Council; Brent Borough Council; Cambridge City Council; Redbridge Council; Croydon Borough Council; Hackney Council; and Waltham Forest Council.

Between 2011 and 2015, the proportion of those made homeless due to the end of an assured shorthold tenancy almost doubled from 15% to 29%, according to government statistics on statutory homelessness.

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