Rise in ‘no-fault’ evictions spurs calls to renew UK-wide ban | Housing

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The number of rental households left homeless by “no-fault” evictions has risen above pre-pandemic levels, sparking fresh calls for the government to ban the practice.

Close to 20,000 households in England were made homeless by landlords using Section 21 notices in 2021/22, up from almost 9,000 the previous financial year, “alarming” new government figures reveal.

Housing activists complain that no-fault notices are sometimes used to trigger “revenge evictions” if tenants complain about conditions or rent increases. This week the former chief of the civil service, Sir Bob Kerslake, warned of a “catastrophic” homelessness crisis unless the government reinstated the eviction ban that protected tenants during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Conservative government promised in 2019 to end the practice, but it has yet to pass legislation.

The more than doubling of homelessness from no-fault evictions is largely due to landlords being prevented from using the eviction system for much of the pandemic as the government successfully moved to prevent a rise in homelessness, including its “all in” strategy on rough sleep. But the latest figures show that no-fault evictions are now causing more homelessness than in 2018/19 and 2019/20.

The figures were “alarming”, said Fiona Colley, director of social change at Homeless Link, a membership organisation.

“The financial pressures we face are pushing more and more people to the edge as pandemic protections ended,” she said. “But the cost of living crisis has exacerbated rather than caused this problem.”

Nick Ballard, lead organizer at Acorn, a tenant activist organisation, said it had seen a big increase in the number of members seeking help to fight no-fault evictions.

“It can be devastating,” he said. “At the milder end, it means uprooting entire families … at the more extreme end, this is the leading cause of homelessness. People end up in overcrowded temporary housing … and poor sleep.”

There was also a 24% increase in the number of households with children asking for help from councils to prevent them becoming homeless, compared to the previous year, and notable increases in the number of working people and black and Asian people who presented themselves as homeless. Overall, however, the number of households at risk of homelessness remained below pre-Covid levels in 2019-20.

During the pandemic, the government imposed a stay on evictions and the usual two-month notice period was extended. But the eviction ban was lifted in England in June 2021, and in October the eviction notice changed to two months.

Section 21 notices are permitted under 1988 Housing Act and allow property owners to evict tenants without giving a reason.

The Conservative government has been criticized for failing to act on its promise to end the practice. In 2019, its manifesto promised its abolition in “a better deal for tenants”. Legislation has yet to be passed. That The Queen’s Speech in May 2022 confirmed that a tenancy reform bill would be introduced in the 2022-23 parliamentary session, but the new government’s policy is unclear.

The proposal is that a tenancy can only end if the tenant terminates it or if the landlord has a valid reason for possession. New grounds will be created to allow landlords to sell or move close family members into the property, and grounds relating to persistent rent arrears and anti-social behavior will be strengthened.

“The Prime Minister must commit to introducing the Tenancy Reform Bill to help give tenants proper protection against being hit by a no-fault eviction and set out a clear plan to provide affordable homes,” said Matt Downie, chief executive of the homelessness organization. Crisis. “Only through such decisive action can thousands more people be protected from homelessness in the coming months.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Leveling, Housing and Communities said: “A fair deal for tenants remains a priority for the Government. We are giving local councils £316m to tackle homelessness and ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads.”

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