TV

BBC Three’s Evicted shows the grim reality for young renters

There’s no love it or list it in this show that follows eight young people as they face homelessness after receiving an eviction notice

BBC Three Evicted shows Dawn receiving a section 21 eviction notice

Personal trainer Dawn received an eviction notice just three weeks after giving birth to her second child. Image: BBC / True North Productions / Cressida Kinnear

Housing programmes on television are usually about choice – BBC Three’s Evicted is a TV show about what happens when you have none.

Think property programmes and it’s Phil and Kirstie asking you whether you’ll Love It Or List It. It’s Dion Dublin asking whether you’re going to rent out or sell your auction bargain on Homes Under the Hammer. It’s Kevin McCloud asking where the optimal spot for a skylight is on your big build project on Grand Designs.

Of course, the reality is that choice is a luxury only the select few can afford in the housing market.

BBC Three’s Evicted, which starts on Thursday, follows eight young people living and working across England as they try to come to terms with being evicted from their homes.

The show follows young people like Thai, who works as a marketing manager for an escape room in Bristol.

She receives a letter from her landlord telling her the rent is going up 66 per cent to £750 per month – the second rent increase in a year. If she doesn’t accept then she will be evicted, the letter adds.

“I read it about four times and then burst into tears,” Thai said, calling the rent hike basically an eviction notice in itself.

Thai knows she’ll be forced to move back to her native Cornwall if she has to go, leaving behind her life in the city where her favourite music drum ’n’ bass was popularised.

BBC Three Evicted shows Dawn battling a rent rise to avoid eviction
A rent increase could mean Thai loses her home and the life she has built for herself in Bristol. Image: BBC / True North Productions / Cressida Kinnear

She decides to fight the rent rise, arguing that the landlord cannot increase her monthly payments twice in a year. That won her a stay of execution for a couple of months but she knows the rent increase will make living in her flat unaffordable with more than half her income going on rent.

The majority of the young people on the show have received a Section 21 eviction notice, also known as a no-fault eviction.

Receiving one of these eviction notices means you could have as little as two months to move out of your home and your landlord doesn’t even have to give you a reason why.

The insecurity and constant threat of upheaval means tenants are unable to put down roots – just like Ben in the show.

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He’s spent time and cash turning his Manchester flat into the perfect space to create music in his spare time. But he and the other residents in the building are being evicted and can only speculate on why.

Later in the episode he gets his answer while searching for a new place: the landlord is refurbishing the flats to up the rent from £670 to £1,450 per month. But Ben is paying a steeper price as he battles with the mental toll of the situation.

Section 21 evictions are a leading driver of homelessness and even landlords agree that they should be scrapped, providing they are adequately replaced.

It’s four years this month since the government promised to axe Section 21 eviction notices. It’s been almost a year since ministers said how they were going to do it: through a Renters Reform Bill that is still to be introduced to Parliament.

Tobias is a refusing to pay rent in a dispute with his landlord in BBC Three's Evicted
Tobias is refusing to pay rent or leave his 10-person flatshare in London after being threatened with eviction for “causing trouble” among the tenants. Image: BBC / True North Productions / Marcus Crocker

Renters are still waiting.

In the meantime, a “perfect storm” of conditions has made the threat of eviction a very real one – that’s the phrase used by the estate agent preparing to evict personal trainer Dawn in the show despite her giving birth just three weeks earlier. 

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A cost of living crisis that has seen inflation soar beyond pay and the rising cost of essentials like food and energy bills coupled with record-high rents has become a renters’ reality.

It’s a predictable end result: the number of eviction notices being sent out and the number of people losing their home against their will has continued to rise.

A year ago, housing charity Shelter said a Section 21 eviction notice has been issued every seven minutes since the government pledged to scrap them.

Eviction notices have continued to be issued at a frantic pace – the BBC’s analysis of official Ministry of Justice figures found more than one thousand notices are being issued every week.

The most recent homelessness figures from England show 6,170 households contacted their council for help after receiving a Section 21 eviction notice between July and September last year – that’s almost 35 per cent higher than the same three months in 2021.

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It’s a sign of the times that has changed how housing is being viewed on the telly.

Last month BBC Panorama’s What’s Gone Wrong With Our Housing? showcased how the housing crisis has developed using London’s Bampton Estate as a touching case study. Social housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa got his own Channel 4 documentary highlighting his efforts to help people trapped in horror homes. Simon Reeve’s Return to Cornwall looked at the region’s tourism-affected housing crisis.

BBC Three Evicted shows Dawn battling a rent rise to avoid eviction
The four-episode series will follow Dawn and seven other young people as they go through eviction and fall into homelessness. Image: BBC / True North Productions / Cressida Kinnear

Even that bit when Kirstie and Phil sit with nervous house buyers in the pub while they negotiate a price is bittersweet as they up bids to far beyond the asking price.

Maybe housing shows that reflect reality rather than championing a home as an aspirational investment are a good thing.

But after watching Evicted, it becomes apparent that there is a choice after all, just not for residents. Will renters be given more protection and power to stay in their homes or will the wait for the Renters Reform Bill continue?

Over to you, Tories.

Evicted is on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer from Thursday

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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