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Housing

The number of ‘no-fault’ evictions being handed out to renters is now 30% higher than pre-Covid

More than 6,000 households faced a Section 21 eviction notice in England and Wales in the first three months of this year, while ministers “dither and delay” over promise to axe them.

Landlords are taking more tenants to court to evict them without giving a reason than before the pandemic as the cost of living crisis continues to push people to eviction and homelessness.

New Ministry of Justice figures showed landlords made more than 19,000 possession claims to reclaim properties between January and March 2022. 

That included more than 6,000 claims for a no-fault eviction – 63 per cent higher than at the end of 2021 and nearly a third higher than the same period in 2019 before the pandemic.

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The statistics also showed landlords evicted 3,763 households – a rise of 38 per cent on the last three months of 2021 – as rising food prices, rents and energy bills hit households. 

“More private renters are now facing eviction than before the pandemic. It is simply unacceptable that the UK government is allowing thousands of people to be forced from their homes,” Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis.

“While families across the country battle to keep roofs over their heads, government inaction over the spiralling costs of energy, rent and food is causing more and more people to be sucked into this crisis.”

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Ministers announced they would scrap Section 21 eviction notices – known as ‘no-fault’ evictions because they allow landlords to evict a tenant without a reason – at last week’s Queen’s Speech as part of the Renters’ Reform Bill.

But while renters wait for that to pass through parliament, thousands of households are at risk of losing their home.

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“To prevent unthinkable numbers of people being pushed into homelessness, we urge the government to make good on their pledge to scrap ‘no fault’ Section 21 notices as quickly as possible, as well as unfreezing housing benefit so it covers the true cost of renting,” added Downie.

“More dither and delay will lead to more households being forced into making impossible decisions as their budgets are squeezed to breaking point.”

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Earlier this year, housing charity Shelter warned that nearly 230,000 renters have received an eviction notice since ministers vowed to axe ‘no-fault’ evictions three years ago. That’s equivalent to one every seven minutes. 

“It’s alarming that as the living cost crisis rages more landlords are kicking tenants out of their homes. These are real people whose lives are being turned upside down and simply cannot afford to lose their homes right now,” said Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter.

“While scrapping Section 21 evictions alone won’t solve the cost-of-living crisis for renters, it will at least give them some much needed security in their homes. The government promised renters three times that it will introduce a Renters’ Reform Bill to scrap unfair Section 21 no-fault evictions. Now, it must get the job done as every minute wasted puts another renter at risk.” 

Following the announcement of the Renters’ Reform Bill, Levelling Up and Housing secretary Michael Gove said: “Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe and cold homes, powerless to put it right, and under the threat of sudden eviction.

The New Deal for renters will help to end this injustice, improving conditions and rights for millions of renters.

“This is all part of our plan to level up communities and improve the life chances of people from all corners of the country.”

The surge in evictions and possession claims comes as rent prices have continued to soar while benefits have failed to keep pace – the £20 increase in universal credit was axed in October, hitting low-income households.

But the MoJ figures pre-date many of the changes that have affected households since April, including rising energy bills, food costs and inflation.

Generation Rent (GR) said the scenario is creating a “perfect storm” that could lead to homelessness. Earlier in the week, the group called for a freeze on rents after the Office for National Statistics revealed rents were rising at the fastest annual rate since 2016.

GR director Alicia Kennedy reiterated the call, warning that the number of landlords issuing a possession claim over rent arrears is now at the highest record since records began in 2009. 

“Private renters are facing a perfect storm. The withdrawal of the £20 universal credit uplift last autumn removed a lifeline that was allowing families to stay on top of rent. That means more people falling into arrears and facing homelessness,” said Kennedy.

“At the same time house prices and rents are surging, encouraging landlords to re-let or sell up, at the expense of their current tenants.

“With inflation raging, the situation is only going to get worse unless the government steps in to raise Local Housing Allowance, freeze rents and put an emergency pause on evictions.”

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