Housing

More than 60,000 households faced homelessness from no-fault eviction since the Tories promised to ban them

The long-awaited Renters Reform Bill is set to ban no-fault evictions but the delay in scrapping them left thousands of families needing council support to keep their homes

Tens of thousands of households applied for homelessness support. Image: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

Tens of thousands of households have faced homelessness because of no-fault evictions in the four years since the Conservative Party promised to ban them, Big Issue research has found.

No-fault evictions, also known as Section 21 evictions, allow landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason and they are considered a leading driver of homelessness.

The government is expected to outlaw them in the forthcoming Renters Reform Bill but that will be little consolation to families who have been evicted in the long delay since the policy was announced.

Official government figures show 63,160 households have asked their local council for help to avoid homelessness after receiving an eviction notice in the four years since then-Prime Minister Theresa May promised to ban Section 21 evictions in April 2019.

A total of 4,860 households needed help to avoid homelessness in the three months after May’s announcement. 

But a temporary eviction ban introduced during the pandemic saw a reduction in households requiring support, down to a low of 1,560 households between April and June 2020.

Since the renter protections ended in May 2021, local authorities have been dealing with increasing numbers of families and individuals facing homelessness after receiving an eviction notice with a high of 6,400 households at risk between January and March 2022.

Cornwall housing crisis is putting families at risk of homelessness
Samantha Evans and her family ended up homeless after being evicted last year, now she is helping others who end up in the same situation. Image: Supplied

Samantha Evans was homeless with her family last year after her landlord decided to sell the two-bedroom cottage in Mawnan Smith, Cornwall, where she was paying £650 per month in rent.

Evans could not find a new home during the two-month notice period she was given under her no-fault eviction.

With nowhere to go, Evans, who works in tourism was forced to sofa surf, staying with two different relatives alongside her partner Dave Evans, 37, and stepson Caden Evans, 18 and pet cat Chutney.

“The landlady was selling our house to cash in on the post-Covid housing boom,” Evans recently told The Big Issue.

“It was panic initially [when the eviction notice came through] because being local and also renting it’s always slightly in the back of your mind are you going to get that call.

“We had two months’ notice and we very quickly realised that we didn’t have a hope of finding somewhere at an affordable price.

“We were like: where next?”

Evans told The Big Issue the Renters Reform Bill is a “good start”.

“I know many who have received Section 21s and the landlord has gone in and done a quick paint job awaiting the next victim to sign a tenancy,” said Evans.

“The abolishment of Section 21 must come hand-in-hand with other factors such as local councils’ right to decide whether to allow landlords the right of change of use to a short-term let or a HMO or to bring the homes up to a liveable standard.”

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The Renters Reform Bill is looking to give local councils more powers to take enforcement action against rogue landlords. The Local Government Association (LGA) has welcomed the bill but called on the government to ensure cash-strapped local authorities are given the resources needed to enforce new powers.

“The removal of no-fault evictions is a significant step towards tackling our national homelessness crisis,” said Darren Rodwell, the LGA’s housing spokesperson.

“The LGA will continue to work with the government to ensure that councils have the right powers, skills, capacity and resources to undertake effective enforcement activity to improve standards in the private rented sector.”

The government has called the Renters Reform Bill a “once in a generation overhaul of housing laws” with Housing Secretary Michael Gove promising the legislation means renters will have a “decent, safe and secure” home.

Lord Bird, founder of the Big Issue and crossbench peer, said: “The Renters Reform Bill is the biggest shake-up of the private rented sector in a generation.

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“Although not perfect, I am particularly pleased to see that abolishing the Section 21 no-fault evictions is in there. We must pass this bill sooner rather than later because with every delay comes with it more people becoming evicted from their homes.”

As well as scrapping no-fault evictions, the bill is set to give tenants the right to request a pet in their home, bring a “decent home standard” to improve the quality of private sector homes as well as creating a property portal so landlords and tenants understand their rights.

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Councillors also welcomed the introduction of a new private ombudsman to settle disputes between tenants, as did consumer rights guru Martin Lewis.

“We have long needed a statutory single private rental ombudsman – so I’m pleased to see it in the legislative plans,” said Lewis.

“After all, disputes are often between two individuals – landlord and tenant – rather than between companies, so it can be very personal and difficult to sort. Crucially, it won’t be voluntary, all private landlords will be required to join the ombudsman, and it will have legal authority to compel apologies, take remedial action and pay compensation.”

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