Renters in England and Wales have been waiting three years for the government to deliver on its promise to scrap no-fault evictions. Image: Alex Ivashenko / Unsplash
A private renter receives a no-fault eviction notice from a landlord every seven minutes in England, despite the Westminster government promising to scrap them three years ago.
Nearly 230,000 private renters have since been served with a formal notice to leave their property under section 21 of the Housing Act, a controversial method that allows landlords to turf tenants out of their homes in just two months without giving a reason.
Theresa May promised to axe no-fault evictions in April 2019, calling them “wrong”. Ministers are finally set to unveil plans to get rid of them for good in the coming months through the Renters’ Reform Bill but in the meantime renters have suffered, according to Shelter chief executive Polly Neate.
“It’s appalling that every seven minutes another private renter is slapped with a no-fault eviction notice despite the government promising to scrap these grossly unfair evictions three years ago. It’s no wonder many renters feel forgotten,” said Neate.
“With inflation and bills skyrocketing, renters desperately need a secure home as many will struggle to stump up the costs of having to move unexpectedly. To give private renters stability during a time of deep uncertainty, the government must introduce a Renters’ Reform Bill that bans no-fault evictions this year. Anything less would be a kick in the teeth for England’s 11 million private renters.”
No-fault evictions are the second biggest driver of homelessness and have been criticised for handing too much power to landlords, meaning that tenants are constantly living with uncertainty.
Shelter’s poll, carried out by YouGov, revealed a quarter of the 1,000 renters quizzed, including one in five families, had lived in three or more private rented homes in the last five years.
Overall, 2 per cent of the renters surveyed said they are aware they had received a section 21 notice within the past three years. The housing charity said extrapolating that figure among England’s 11 million private renters is equivalent to 227,000 renters.
This could see 208 renters served with a no-fault eviction notice every day, or one every seven minutes.
Anna, 44, was handed a section 21 eviction notice by her letting agent in March 2022 after complaining about long-standing disrepair in her £750 a month private rental.
The part-time shop assistant has lived in the property in Manchester with her 18-year-old daughter for 15 years but claims she has been told to leave after complaining about a broken boiler that left her and her daughter with no warm water over winter.
She told The Big Issue that the situation had left her feeling “powerless” and she has struggled to find a new place to live because she does not have a guarantor while other landlords do not accept benefits.
“As a tenant, you have no right to say anything. It’s horrible,” she said.
“It’s not fair and it has affected my mental health. When I received the section 21 notice, I was crying non-stop. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. You just feel hopeless because you don’t know what to do or where to go and you don’t understand how this works.
“You have no right to say anything to the landlord because they are doing whatever they want. I think the government needs to realise that tenants need power too. What’s next for me? Living on the street – that’s the reality. The government makes the rules, it isn’t doing enough to help us.”
“Millions of private renters are living in limbo – never truly able to settle – in case their landlord kicks them out on a whim. It’s a well-founded fear as our frontline services support renters all the time who are scrambling to find a home after being told to up sticks with just two months’ notice,” added Neate.
A government spokesperson said: “Our Private Rented Sector White Paper will set out reforms to make renting fairer for all, including by banning Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions as soon as possible.
“We are also providing a £22 billion package of support to help households with rising costs. This includes putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families via universal credit and direct support for bills.”
Landlords lobby groups have also supported the end of section 21 evictions, providing a “fair and workable” system is brought in to replace them.
But Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, accused Shelter of “scaremongering” over its figures.
Urgent action is needed to prevent even more people being pushed into homelessness. A secure home is the first step in addressing the cruel cycle of poverty to ensure people can fulfil their potential. Join us to keep people in their homes.