Housing

More than 5,000 renters face being made homeless over Christmas, Labour says: 'People are dying'

A ‘toxic mix’ of rent and cost of living rises alongside the failure to end no-fault evictions is leaving renters on the brink, says Labour’s Angela Rayner

Angela Rayner on renters facing homelessness

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has sounded the alarm on renters facing homelessness over the festive season. Image: Rupert Rivett / Shutterstock

More than 5,000 private renting households could face homelessness over Christmas and New Year due to a “toxic mix” of rising rents, the cost of living crisis and no-fault evictions, Labour has warned.

The opposition party estimates that 5,758 households could be threatened with losing their home in the final quarter of 2023 while 2,447 households face losing their homes to bailiffs through a no-fault eviction.

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The warnings come as the Renters Reform Bill continues its passage through parliament but the headline change of axing no-fault evictions, which allow a landlord to evict a tenant without giving a reason, has been paused until reforms to the courts.

“A toxic mix of rising rents, the cost of living crisis and a failure to end no-fault evictions is hitting the most vulnerable this Christmas,” said shadow housing secretary Angela Rayner, who will visit homelessness charity Crisis in London on Tuesday (19 December) alongside shadow homelessness secretary Mike Amesbury.

“On the Tories’ watch, a homelessness crisis has erupted. People are dying on the streets, record numbers of children are living in temporary accommodation and private renters have no legal protection against their landlord making them homeless on a whim.”

“Having waited years for ministers to deliver on their promise to end no fault evictions, tens of thousands more families now face the risk of homelessness because of this further delay. The next Labour government will get the job done.” 

Labour’s warnings both extrapolate government figures to predict how many families face homelessness this winter.

The opposition party said the number of households threatened with homelessness after a no-fault eviction in the second quarter of 2023 rose by 10.3% year on year to 6,020 households.

If this was repeated in the fourth quarter, the number of households asking councils for support to avoid homelessness would rise from 5,220 in 2022 to 5,758 over Christmas and New Year in 2023.

Similarly, the number of households evicted by bailiffs due to no-fault evictions rose 28.7% year on year to 2,307 people in the third quarter of 2023, according to Ministry of Justice figures.

If that was repeated in the final quarter of the year, covering Christmas and New Year, it could see 2,447 households evicted, up from 1,924 households in 2022. 

Homelessness charity Crisis said it will provide accommodation to more than 590 people in London at Christmas and expects to help more than 7,000 people across Britain.

Matt Downie, Crisis chief executive, said: “Christmas should be a time of celebration, but instead thousands of people will be experiencing homelessness, while others on the brink will be wondering if this Christmas will be the last in their own home.

“Through our services, we see how the lack of security for renters is driving up homelessness. Day in day out, we witness the emotional and financial toll it has on people. 

“What’s more, the severe shortage of affordable housing means that people who are served an eviction notice often struggle to find somewhere else they can afford. It cannot be understated the immense stress this causes people, as they face the very real prospect of being thrust into homelessness.”

The government announced in October that the ban on Section 21 evictions, as no-fault evictions are also known, would come after court reforms and the Renters Reform Bill has passed into law. 

That amounts to an indefinite delay and has left renters with no clear timetable on when ministers will deliver on a promise to scrap them that was first made in April 2019.

Speaking to the Levelling Up select committee earlier this month, housing secretary Michael Gove said the court reforms will happen in “a matter of months”.

“Section 21 will be abolished when the legislation is on the statute book. It will be made operational when we’re confident that the courts system can deal with the abolition and we are confident that should be in a matter of months,” Gove told MPs.

“This is the biggest change – a welcome change I believe – to landlord and tenant law for three decades so we need to make sure the court system is ready for it.”

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The Big Issue’s End Housing Insecurity Now campaign has been calling on ministers to deliver on its four-year-old promise to end no-fault evictions through the bill. The campaign has also asked the government to protect low-income renters by reforming universal credit while Jeremy Hunt has already answered our call to unfreeze local housing allowance.

However, MPs from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Private Rental Sector said last week that the Renters Reform BIll will fail without sufficient resources to enforce it.

With the Local Government Association warning almost one in five local authorities could go bust next year, the cross-party group of MPs and peers said measures included in the bill to crackdown rogue and criminal landlords will fail without extra cash.

The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health warned that the number of environmental health officers are “not sufficient to deal with the existing numbers of tenant complaints.” It cited data showing that for every 10,000 private rented homes there were less than three environmental health officers.  

Meanwhile, the APPG also found an increase in possession hearings in the courts could see renters and responsible landlords struggle to afford to defend their rights. The Law Society has called for an increase in legal aid with 25 million people – around 42% of the population – without access to a local legal aid provider for housing advice.

Andrew Lewer, APPG chair, said: “The government needs to provide substantial multi-year funding to ensure councils have the resources they need to enforce the planned decent homes standard and ensure all rented homes are safe and secure.

“Likewise, tenants and landlords need to be confident that they will be able to enforce their rights in court in a timely and effective way when Section 21 ends. It is simply unacceptable that ministers have provided scant detail about what improvements to the justice system will look like and when they will happen.”

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