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Delay in ‘no fault’ evictions ban leaves 48,000 households facing homelessness

The Tories pledged to end section 21 evictions in 2019. Tens of thousands have paid the price for their slow progress

Ruby Lott-Lavigna
25 November 2022, 6.00am
Credit: Picture Capital/Alamy Live News

More than 48,000 households in England have been left facing homelessness because of “no fault” evictions in the three and half years since the government pledged to ban them.

Tenants’ groups have warned that further delays to the ban – not expected to be introduced until 2023 – will turn thousands more lives upside-down.

In June 2019, the government announced that it would ban so-called ‘no-fault’ evictions, Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 which allows landlords to evict tenants without a specific reason. The ban would make up a part of a wider set of laws known as the Renters Reform Bill, which is yet to materialise.

Between July 2019 – a month after the government’s pledge – and June 2022, 48,020 households in England were assessed by local councils as being at risk of homelessness because they had been served section 21 evictions, according to recent data released by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Community (DLUHC).

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“Homelessness has a devastating cost: to tenants’ finances, to the public purse when councils rehouse them, and in terms of the stress and heartache for tenants and the communities they are often forced to leave,” Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of Generation Rent, told openDemocracy.

“Michael Gove now says we won’t see the Renters Reform Bill until next year, at which point it will have been four years since the government’s original commitment to abolish section 21 And in that time thousands more people will have their lives turned upside down at the whim of their landlord.”

A spokesperson for DLUHC said: “This government is committed to abolishing section 21 evictions, protecting 1.3 million families with children from the risk of losing their homes, and have provided £316m this year to councils to help ensure no family is without a roof over their heads. We’ve also set aside £37bn in support measures for those struggling with the rising cost of living.”

A housing crisis, slashed council budgets and the coronavirus pandemic have all exacerbated the UK’s homelessness crisis. Research from charity Crisis found that homelessness is set to soar as a result of rising poverty levels, with 6,000 more people in England expected to be homeless by 2024.

In response to the cost of living crisis, Scotland introduced a rent freeze and eviction ban in October, expected to last until March 2023. Tenants' rights groups have subsequently called for similar protections in England and Wales, but little has been offered in support for private renters.

Recent homelessness statistics from DLUHC also showed that homelessness from the private rented sector is now 19% higher than before the pandemic.

“These figures clearly demonstrate yet again that section 21 evictions leave thousands of people facing instability and homelessness, in a private rental market that does not provide enough decent, affordable homes,” a spokesperson for the Museum of Homelessness told openDemocracy.

“We are concerned that not enough is being done: in a cost of living crisis affecting thousands of households, there is no time to waste.”

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