Housing

Liz Truss may ‘betray renters’ and shelve manifesto promise to axe no-fault evictions

The government is reportedly set to U-turn on axing section 21 evictions which allow landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason despite manifesto promise to renters.

section 21 evictions

Liz Truss is reportedly set to U-turn on a 2019 Conservative manifesto promise to scrap no-fault evictions. It's been described as a "dangerous move" by campaigners. Image: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Liz Truss’ government has been accused of “betraying renters” over alleged plans to U-turn on the Tory manifesto promise to stop landlords evicting tenants at will.

No-fault evictions, or section 21 evictions as they are also known, allow landlords to evict privately-renting tenants with two months’ notice without giving a reason.

They are considered a leading driver of homelessness and recent months have brought a marked increase as the halt on evictions during the pandemic came to an end.

The Conservatives first promised to replace section 21 evictions in April 2019 when then-prime minister Theresa May announced the “unfair” evictions would be axed. In the three years following May’s announcement, a tenant received a section 21 notice every seven minutes, according to research from Shelter.

Former housing secretary Michael Gove revealed the Renters Reform Bill would remove section 21 evictions in June.

But now Truss is planning to shelve the legislation, which was due to be introduced in the current parliamentary session, according to reports in The Times. The new prime minister reportedly believes the issue is “not considered a priority”.

A government spokesperson told The Big Issue they would not comment on leaked documents. They added: “The government is committed to exploring policies that build the homes people need, deliver new jobs, support economic development and boost local economies.”

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “Millions of people are only a few weeks from losing their home through no fault of their own.

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“The Tories promised to stop this in their election manifesto and the Queen’s Speech. It would be shameful to break this promise.

 “Labour has been calling for months for emergency legislation to ban no-fault evictions and give renters greater security in their homes.”

Labour shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook added that the move meant Liz Truss had decided to “betray renters”.

The news has sparked anger among housing and rent campaigners.

Tenants union Acorn described the move as an “absolute disgrace” on Twitter. The union has campaigned for section 21 evictions to be scrapped for years as part of the Renters’ Reform Coalition,

“This is an extremely dangerous move from PM Liz Truss, which once again shows that she is just interested in looking after the richest in society,” said Acorn vice chair Jonathan Hardy. “Acorn and the rest of the housing movement will not take this lying down. We will be mobilising to fight for the safe, secure and affordable homes everyone deserves.”

Nearly 230,000 private renters received a section 21 eviction notice in the three years since former PM May’s April 2019 promise to end their use, Shelter said in April.

Official figures released last month showed the number of households threatened with homelessness after receiving a section 21 notice in England more than doubled in 2021/22.

A total of 19,970 households faced homelessnes due to a no-fault eviction over the year – an increase of more than 120 per cent on the 8,940 households recorded in 2020/21. Restrictions on private rented evictions introduced during the pandemic, such as an eviction ban and extended notice periods, ended in May 2021. 

Alicia Kennedy, a Labour peer and the director of Generation Rent, said “Ministers have stuck by it through a general election, three Queen’s Speeches, and a pandemic, and finally this summer we got a package of reforms which had the broad support of the whole sector.

“It is one of the most popular items on the government’s agenda and there’s barely anything left to do but publish the bill and pass it. The government will be shooting itself in the foot if it ditches the reforms at this point.”

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Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, the head of policy and profile at Law Centres Network, said: “The government says that it wants to support people through the cost of living emergency. Its actions, however, say the opposite, and louder.

“By shelving plans to end section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions, it is leaving millions of private renters to fend for themselves this winter, as bills and rents increase.

“The government should urgently reconsider this move.” 

Darren Baxter, senior policy adviser at Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the private rented sector reforms have cross-party support in Westminster. Baxter added: “There is simply no excuse to scrap them now.”

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Even landlords have supported the decision to remove the eviction mechanism from the statute book.

Ben Beadle, the chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), said: “Whatever the government’s plans, a wide range of reforms are desperately needed to support the sector. The supply crisis in the sector must be addressed urgently, while much more needs to be done to root out criminal and rogue landlords. Likewise vulnerable tenants can and should be better supported by unfreezing housing benefit rates.   

 “The NRLA will continue to work with all parties to ensure that reforms are fair and workable and command the support of tenants and responsible landlords.” 

Truss’ move would be contrary to the approach taken by the Scottish government. Holyrood passed emergency legislation last week to freeze rents and introduce an eviction ban up until March 2023.

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