Law News

Will unfair evictions in the private rental sector be reduced by next government?

Em Morley - November 20, 2019

We could see homelessness cases reduced by 10% with our next government, according to an analysis by Generation Rent.

By protecting tenants from unfair evictions, this could make a substantial difference to homelessness in the UK.

The findings, based on Ministry of Housing data, also reveal that Boris Johnson and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell are among the MPs whose constituents face the highest risk of being made homeless by an arbitrary eviction.

Election battleground areas, such as Corby, Milton Keynes, Enfield, and Crawley, are among the worst-affected by homelessness caused by Section 21 evictions.

Tenants in the London Borough of Havering were most at risk of their landlord selling up or reletting, with 39 in every 1000 private renter households being owed a homelessness duty by the council for these reasons in 2018-19. Corby had the second highest rate, with 25 renters in every 1000 facing homelessness.

Tenants in the Prime Minister’s local authority, Hillingdon, were the 6th most at risk of losing their home on no-fault grounds, with 20 in every 1000 private renter households owed a homelessness duty. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell represents the borough’s other constituency, Hayes & Harlington.

CouncilSize of private renter population (households, 2011)Number of homelessness cases following no-fault evictionNo-fault eviction homelessness rate per 1000 renter householdsKey seats, incumbent party (2017), majority
Corby3,8399525Corby, Conservative, 2,690
Barking & Dagenham12,32829224Dagenham, Labour, 4,652
Crawley6,21413622Crawley, Conservative, 2,457
Hillingdon18,14136920Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Conservative, 5,034Hayes and Harlington, Labour, 18,115
Enfield26,59148418Enfield North, Labour (Change MP Joan Ryan stepping down), 10,247Enfield Southgate, Labour, 4,355
Milton Keynes17,06626816Milton Keynes North, Conservative, 1,975Milton Keynes South, Conservative, 1,725
unfair evictions

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has released figures showing that of the 263,720 households that faced homelessness in 2018-2019, just over 10% were being evicted because their landlord was selling up, reletting the property or responding to a complaint by the tenant about disrepair.

Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 is what makes these ‘no fault’ evictions possible. It allows landlords to take back properties without needing a reason.

The May government pledged to abolish Section 21 and a consultation on the details ended on 12th October. Labour and the Liberal Democrats also support the policy.

Further to this, 5.7% if homelessness cases were the result of rent arrears. Changes to housing benefit in recent years have made it harder for recipients to pay the rent.

A freeze of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) means that tenants can’t cover rent rises and the five-week wait to receive Universal Credit means tenants can easily get behind on their rent payments.

One in four private renters receives housing benefit, but the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that just one in 20 private rented homes is affordable to someone receiving housing benefit.

Government action could help tenants in all these situations. Alongside ACORN, London Renters Union, New Economics Foundation, Renters Rights London and Tenants Union UK, Generation Rent has published a Renter Manifesto to encourage parties to adopt policies to improve life for private renters. The policies include:

  • A commitment to end Section 21 evictions and require landlords who evict to sell to pay their tenant’s costs of moving home;
  • Changes to the benefits system so that recipients are able to keep a roof over their head, including linking local housing allowance to 30% of local rents and ending the delay for receiving Universal Credit; and
  • Legally binding guidance on the Equality Act that prohibits discrimination against people receiving benefits.

Dan Wilson Craw, Director of Generation Rent, said: “For private renters, the most common reason for becoming homeless is that your landlord wants to sell or simply re-let the property.

“Landlords don’t have to prove grounds or help you move – it’s left to tenants themselves and councils to cover the costs. In this way, the law prioritises the pursuit of profit over the need for a home.

“The next government would dramatically reduce homelessness by abolishing Section 21 evictions, making landlords foot the tenant’s bill if they want to sell, and making it easier for renters receiving benefits to pay market rents.”