Almost 700,000 renters in England have faced so-called “no-fault” evictions during the COVID pandemic, despite the UK government committing as far back as 2019 to stop private landlords evicting tenants at short notice without good reason.
A survey from Generation Rent, a renters campaign group, indicated that as many as 694,000 renters had faced evictions through no fault of their own since the start of March last year. The survey also found that one in three private renters were worried they would lose their home in the next year, equivalent to three million adults in England.
No-fault evictions, otherwise known as Section 21 evictions, allow landlords to evict tenants without reason, and cannot be challenged in court if presented correctly. During the campaign to ban them, Section 21 evictions were criticised for allowing landlords to enact “revenge evictions,” if, for example, tenants legally requested repairs or improvements to the property. In 2019, organisers won a campaign to ban Section 21 evictions as part of the Renters Reform Bill.
However, despite the pledge to reform the eviction process, the government said in November 2020 it would delay scrapping Section 21 until after the pandemic. In response to a written question from Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney, Housing Minister Chris Pincher said: “The government is committed to abolishing Section 21 through a Renters’ Reform Bill, which will enhance renters’ security and improve protections for tenants. We will bring forward the Renters’ Reform Bill in due course once the urgencies of responding to the pandemic has passed.”
Renters have been one of the hardest-hit groups throughout the pandemic. Despite legislation to provide protections for home owners such as mortgage holidays, the government has provided very little support for tenants in England. Although evictions have been delayed at various stages in the pandemic, they have not been banned. In June 2020, housing charity Shelter estimated 230,000 people would be at risk of eviction during the pandemic.
VICE World News reached out to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which said: “Robust protections remain in place for renters, including longer notice periods of six months and banning bailiff enforcement of evictions for all but the most serious cases.
“We’re committed to repealing section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to improve security for tenants and strengthen the rights of landlords.”
“A Section 21 notice pulls the rug out from under you,” Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent said. “As long as the landlord serves it correctly, you have to move out. That means very few tenants challenge it in court. And because landlords don’t need a reason for eviction, it also means that many tenants live in fear of losing their home and families throughout England have no confidence to put down roots in their local area.”
“Renters have been waiting two years for the government to make good on its promise to ban these unfair evictions. If it weren’t for Section 21, 700,000 renters would not have faced an unwanted move during a pandemic and millions more would have the confidence to plan their lives.”