Housing

25,000 Section 21 eviction notices have been handed out since Theresa May vowed to scrap them

No-fault evictions allow landlords to evict their tenants without giving a reason but government plans to axe them have now slipped into 2022.

Theresa May eviction promise

Then-Prime Minister Theresa May attending the National Housing Federation Summit in 2018. Image: Flickr/Number 10

It’s been two-and-a-half years since Theresa May’s government promised to scrap ‘no-fault’ evictions but renters will still be facing the prospect of being forced out without a reason in 2022.

Since April 2019, more than 25,000 landlord possession claims have been heard in county courts in England and Wales, according to government statistics, with more on the cards in the months ahead.

The Big Issue’s Stop Mass Homelesness campaign has been calling for ‘no-fault’ evictions – or section 21 evictions as they are also known – to be suspended to prevent rising homelessness in the next few months following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Westminster government has confirmed that the upcoming private rented sector white paper, which is expected to replace ‘no-fault’ evictions, will be delayed until next year.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “We remain committed to delivering a fairer private rented sector – this includes ending the practice of no-fault evictions.

“We will continue to engage constructively with stakeholders across the sector as we develop proposals.”

It was on April 15 2019 when then-prime minister May said renters losing their home with “little notice and often little justification” was “wrong”.   

May added: “Today we’re acting by preventing these unfair evictions.”

Big Issue analysis of the Ministry of Justice possession statistics figures shows that county courts have dealt with 25,752 accelerated possession claims – another name for section 21 evictions between April 2019 and June 2021 – the most recent data available.

The number of claims under the section 21 legislation has fallen from a high point of 5,033 between April and June 2019 down to 883 during the first lockdown in 2020 when an eviction ban was in place.

Renters want long-term homes and reliable landlords, so will be frustrated at yet another delay

Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of Generation Rent

However, that figure had risen to 2,495 possession claims in the last three months of 2020 and, with many of the measures protecting households from the impact of the Covid-19 now gone, The Big Issue is among several campaigners who have called for action in recent months.

Earlier this year The Big Issue reported that a household was made homeless once every three and a half hours at the start of 2021 while the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s investigation found many court hearings on evictions took just minutes during the pandemic.

Last week new statutory homelessness figures for England showed a 105 per cent surge in families facing eviction when Covid restrictions were lifted between April and June 2021 with more than 3,0000 households threatened with homelessness or losing their home.

Lord John Bird said: “The government promised that no one would lose their home as a result of Covid. We have already seen evictions double and delaying the reform leaves many more at risk of eviction over the coming months. We need to act now to keep people in their homes.”

Campaigners Generation Rent and Shelter have been among the groups campaigning as the Renters Reform Coalition to end the use of section 21 to evict tenants. 

Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of Generation Rent, said: “The longer renters wait for the government to abolish Section 21, the more people will have their lives uprooted at their landlord’s whim. Many more will continue living in squalid conditions, afraid that a complaint will only result in an eviction notice. Renters want long-term homes and reliable landlords, so will be frustrated at yet another delay.

“We will continue working with the government as they develop these reforms, and keep making the case for measures that prevent new grounds for eviction from being abused and leaving tenants facing homelessness.”

But that action has taken time, with Boris Johnson’s government picking up the responsibility three months before the Covid-19 pandemic pushed the UK into lockdown in March 2020.

The government has previously said it was searching for a replacement to ‘no-fault’ evictions that balances the need for landlords to retain their properties and the right for renters to have security in their home.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference last month, rough sleeping minister Eddie Hughes told a fringe event he was wary of “unintended consequences” of rental reforms.

A government spokesperson told The Big Issue ministers are still committed to bring forward legislation on the issue when parliamentary time allows.

“We want to make sure we take full advantage of this knowledge and experience to produce a package of reforms that works for both tenants and landlords,” a government letter to stakeholders read last week.

“I hope you agree that it is better for us to take the time to get these reforms right working in partnership with colleagues than to rush something out that misses the mark.”

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