The main cause of homelessness in the UK is the loss of a private rented tenancy and the campaign fighting back against that reality went to parliament yesterday.
Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 enables a landlord to evict a tenant without giving a reason if they follow a legal process. And, according to research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, it has become a key driver of homelessness with the number of private tenants being evicted rising by a fifth last year.
To #EndHomelessness we need to #EndSection21 & raise welfare to cover the cost of rents and fix system delays. @OnnMel mentions @genrentuk analysis which suggests that 200 families are made homeless each week as a result of a Section 21 no fault eviction. https://t.co/KymwfqXgCl
— Hannah Slater (@hannahslateruk) December 6, 2018
The legislation came under the microscope in a parliamentary debate yesterday as part of the government’s pledge to look at improving renter security.
Karen Lewell-Buck, South Shields MP, led the debate, citing the “shadow of insecurity” that the prospect of being evicted brings for the UK’s 15 million renters.
“It is a structural insecurity in a growing sector that is increasingly home to families and people who are looking for security,” said Lewell-Buck, who is bring the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill through parliament in a bid to boost the standard of housing.
“This is a huge number of people now living under the shadow of insecurity. And the issue of homelessness – expensive, traumatic, a huge challenge for local authorities though it is – is only the tip of the insecurity iceberg. We know that there is a solid body of evidence to tackle section 21 evictions in order for us to tackle homelessness.”
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
Housing campaigner Generation Rent has criticised the order for being out of touch with the reality of the rental market, tipping it in favour of landlords and weakening tenants’ rights. Its petition on banning ‘no fault’ evictions has attracted more than 50,000 signatures.
Croydon Council and Age UK also voiced their support for section 21 to be scrapped. In Scotland, the act was abolished last year.
— Your Croydon (@yourcroydon) December 6, 2018
But, speaking in the debate, Homelessness Minister Heather Wheeler insisted that no decision had yet been made on whether to axe the order or not.
“There have been calls to abolish section 21 evictions but we’ve not yet made any firm policy decisions on whether to legislate to alter the provisions as set out in section 21 and first want to consider carefully the response of a call for evidence on user experience of the courts,” said Wheeler.
“Property is a valuable asset and landlords may need to be able to regain their property quickly for reasons such as if they need to sell the property or to enable themselves or a family member to move in. There is a clear legal protection for tenants and a clear process that landlords must follow when carrying out a section 21 eviction.”