What will the Abolition of Section 21 ‘No-Fault’ Evictions mean for Tenants?

Section 21

Section 21It has now been announced that ‘no-fault’ evictions under Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act will be abolished. Moving forward, landlords will not be able to legally evict tenants at short notice without a good reason.

This change has been called for as part of the End Unfair Evictions campaign, organised by a coalition of renter unions and housing campaigners. This includes Generation Rent, ACORN, London Renters Union, Tenants Union UK and the New Economics Foundation. The petition to get Section 21 abolished was started on campaign website 38 Degrees, and reached 50,000 signatures in just ten weeks.

Laurence Elliott, Spokesperson at Tenants Union UK, has commented: “This is an incredibly political victory that comes from the hard work of tenants organising in their communities and a coalition of organisations fighting for change.

“Section 21 has no place in a civil society. It has caused immeasurable distress to our members, in the very worst cases forcing them on to the streets for no fault of their own. The Government has taken the right step and we are eager to see what answers they have to tackle the chronic undersupply of truly affordable housing.”

The description for the petition states: “We call on the UK government to give renters in England stability and certainty in their homes by abolishing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.”

It highlights that restrictions to no-fault evictions that have already been made by the Scottish government, so it’s time that renting is made more secure in England.

With private landlords going unmonitored, this has meant that the less professional types have been getting away with evicting tenants for no reason, and in some circumstances using it as a method of revenge, when tenants make complaints or request repairs to their home.

Research undertaken by Citizens Advice last year estimated that 141,000 tenants had become victims of Section 21 revenge evictions since 2015, making it a leading cause of homelessness in England.

Dan Wilson Craw, Director of Generation Rent, has said: “Eleven million people in England have no idea where home will be in a year’s time, thanks to Section 21.

“The ability of landlords to evict without reason is disrupting educations, eroding our communities, and leaving tenants feeling powerless. The Government has listened to renters and has made the right decision.”

The official response from Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, highlights that this is a ‘positive step’, yet there are still more changes needed.

Sparkes stated: “We warmly welcome the news that private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants at short notice with no reason. We know that the end of a private tenancy is the single leading cause of homelessness across England so this decision represents a monumental leap forward in helping prevent homelessness across the country. We look forward to seeing further details.

“Where so many renters across the country currently live in anxiety of a ‘no fault’ eviction, more stable tenancies are especially important to those who have experienced homelessness – helping provide much-needed stability, giving them time to put down roots in their community, find employment and access support services if needed.

“Whilst this is undeniably a positive step, we cannot forget that a chronic social housing shortage alongside woefully inadequate levels of housing benefit mean many people struggle to even afford a privately rented home. Ultimately, to ensure people most vulnerable to homelessness are not left with nowhere to turn, the Government must urgently address these root causes.”

We hope to now see a turnaround in the private rented sector (PRS), and the improvement of housing stability for tenants. However, there are concerns from many that the lack of monitoring for rent prices is still an obstacle in the way of secure housing.

Amina Gichinga, a spokesperson for the London Renters Union, has said: “Renters across the UK are getting organised and turning anger about our rigged housing system into effective political action. 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.”

As well as acknowledging the major victory that has been won in the name of secure housing for the UK PRS, ACORN National Organiser Nick Ballard has pointed out: “This is a huge win but there’s more to come. Next are rent controls to ensure that housing becomes a social and human right and not an asset generating profits for a few. Solidarity is strength. We know what we’re entitled to and we’re taking what’s ours.”

Heather Kennedy, Housing Organiser at the New Economics Foundation, has shared her personal experience with Section 21. She said: “Having been evicted using Section 21 twice in my life, most recently last winter, two days after discovering I was pregnant, I know how brutal and terrifying no fault evictions are.

“It’s impossible to build a stable, rooted life as a private renter under laws like Section 21. So government plans to repeal this appalling legislation is a massive victory for the growing renters movement, which has fought collectively to make this happen.

“Having landlords that can evict you on a whim, often because they want to put the rent up, is one of the most destructive examples of a housing system that puts the interests of landlords to make a profit above the needs of renters for a home.

“But repealing is not enough. 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.”

The abolition of Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions will also be accompanied by the introduction of open-ended tenancies for private renters in England. It was announced on Monday 15th April that the Government will consult on new legislation, as announced by Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP.

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