Housing

Section 21 evictions more than double in a year as government lays out Renters Reform Bill to scrap them

The number of households seeing homes repossessed by bailiffs after receiving a Section 21 notice doubled in the last year

The Renters Reform Bill will ban Section 21 evictions

The Renters Reform Bill will ban Section 21 evictions when it comes into force. Image: Allan Vega / Unsplash

The government has finally unveiled the Renters Reform Bill to scrap no-fault evictions just as new official figures show how much the ban is needed.

New government statistics show the number of households evicted by bailiffs due to a Section 21 eviction, which allows a tenant to be evicted without a landlord giving a reason, has surged 116 per cent in a year.

A total of 2,252 households in England saw their home repossessed through a Section 21 notice between January and March this year, more than double the 1,045 households that suffered the same fate in 2022.

Overall, 19,000 households have been evicted by bailiffs since the government promised to scrap no-fault evictions in 2019. That’s despite an eviction ban between March 2020 and May 2021.

The government has called the long-awaited legislation to scrap no-fault evictions a “once in a generation overhaul of housing laws” as it began its journey through Parliament this week.

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Paula Barker, Labour’s Shadow Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Minister, said: “These figures are a damning indictment of the government’s failure to tackle homelessness, which is having devastating consequences for thousands of families and children. 

“It is welcome that long overdue plans to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions have finally been published but since the government first made this promise over four years ago, more than 60,000 households have been threatened with eviction, so it’s far from clear that they can deliver. 

“Labour wants to see Section 21 scrapped immediately, and we have set out plans to build more affordable homes and empower councils to build more social homes, end automatic evictions for rent arrears and increase notice periods for landlords.”

In total, 6,820 landlords started no-fault eviction court proceedings between January and March 2023, up 16 per cent in a year.

That means more than 60,000 court proceedings have been started by landlords since the government first promised to ban Section 21 evictions.

County courts have experienced backlogs to handle cases since the eviction ban during the pandemic. The government has rejected calls from the Levelling Up committee for a dedicated housing court but has promised court reforms as part of the Renters Reform Bill to “digitise” the process.

The government figures show the median average time between a landlord making a possession claim and the property being granted a repossession fell to 22 weeks between January and March, down from 27 weeks a year earlier.

Francesca Albanese, interim director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, said the Renters Reform Bill is a “welcome step” to end no-fault evictions but the bill must be passed as “quickly as possible”

“No one should be forced from their home or live in fear that an eviction notice will come through their door at any moment, but these figures show that this is a rapidly escalating reality for thousands of renters,” said Albanese.

“What these statistics don’t show is the anxiety and worry that comes with trying to find another home after an eviction notice in one of the most difficult housing markets we’ve ever known. They can’t show the pressure placed on people who are left with no choice but to live with mould and damp because the only alternative is no home at all.”

As well as scrapping Section 21 evictions, the Renters Reform Bill will also give tenants the right to have a pet, challenge rent increase and live in better quality of homes through the introduction of a “decent homes standard”.

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Meanwhile landlords will be blocked from having a blanket ban on renting to tenants who have children or receive benefits and councils will be given greater enforcement powers to tackle rogue landlords.

Announcing the legislation this week, Housing Secretary Michael Gove said: “Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe, cold homes, powerless to put things right, and with the threat of sudden eviction hanging over them.

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“This government is determined to tackle these injustices by offering a new deal to those living in the private rented sector; one with quality, affordability, and fairness at its heart.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the new legislation must leave no loopholes for “unfair evictions to carry on via the backdoor”.

“The government must ensure when landlords do seek to take their property back that they provide sufficient proof their intentions are legitimate, notice periods are long enough to protect tenants from homelessness, and there are big penalties for misuse,” said Neate.

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