A coalition lobbying Westminster to keep its promise to scrap Section 21 (so-called ‘no-fault’) evictions and make the private rented sector (PRS) fairer launched its key asks today.
Marking the two-year anniversary of Whitehall’s promise to scrap no-fault evictions, the Renters Reform Coalition launched its policy principles, and called for urgent progress on the Renters Reform Bill first announced in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019.
The coalition of more than 20 charities, think tanks, renters unions and NGOs, formed at the end of 2020, is concerned that COVID-19 is being used to kick these essential reforms into the long grass.
New Survation research indicates that almost 700,000 renters in England have been served eviction notices since March 2020 in the wake of COVID-19. Campaigners said that this means these reforms are needed now more than ever.
The coalition is asking for ten key policy changes encompassing stability and affordability, safety and standards, and fairness. Among them is a call for a national landlord register.
CIEH is part of the coalition alongside: Shelter; Safer Renting; Crisis; Generation Rent; Citizens Advice for England and Wales; ACORN; Joseph Rowntree Foundation; London Renters Union; the Nationwide Foundation; and more.
No-fault evictions were scrapped in Scotland in 2017, and different rules are already in place in Northern Ireland. Section 21 is currently operational in Wales but reforms are due in spring 2022 – which will extend the notice period from two months to six.
Sue James, chair of the coalition, said the breadth of the organisations coming together highlight the importance of the issue and that it was “essential” that PRS reform was a key part of the government’s plans to reform the housing system.
She added: “Private renters face high rents, poor living conditions and perpetual instability. This causes needless disruption to people’s lives: their finances, work, health and their children’s education. Renters need certainty to enable them to put down roots in communities and create real homes in rented properties.
"Having been a front-line legal housing advisor for many years I have seen the difference that good quality, secure housing can make to people’s lives. We need to see people’s homes as more than just terms in a contract.”
CIEH policy and campaigns manager Tamara Sandoul said: "It's great to see all these organisations coming together to influence the government's Renters Reform Bill to ensure it does what it is meant to, which is to protect tenants and redress the balance between renters and landlords.
"We are especially pleased to see so many organisations supporting our calls for a national landlord register, which we have been calling for for almost two years now.
"We have evidenced that a register is a necessary requirement for effective enforcement to ensure safe and quality homes for renters, as well as eliminating rogue elements from the system and creating a fair and level playing field for landlords."
Some 1,008 people took part in the Survation poll between 23 and 25 February this year, including 884 in England. It found 8% had received a Section 21 notice from their landlord since March 2020, representing 694,000 private renters across England. A further 32% said they were concerned their landlord might ask them to move out this year, representing 2.78m private renters.
The ten policy principles the coalition is calling for:
• Abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions
• Introduce open ended tenancies
• New grounds for possession must be fair and not repeat Section 21
• Prevent rent hikes from being used to force tenants to leave
• More than two months notice periods in all but the most serious cases
• Improved affordability - housing should not comprise more than a third of someone’s income
• Ensure homes are safe and decent by introducing a well-resourced national register of landlords
• Illegal eviction is a crime and should be treated as such
• Free the PRS from discrimination eg against those on welfare benefits, low incomes, or zero hour contracts. The requirement for landlords to check immigration status should be scrapped.
• Better dispute resolution and mediation services, advice and representation, and guaranteed access for all renters to legal aid