No fault evictions have no place in our society
In my 27 years in parliament, I’ve never seen a housing crisis as deep as the one now. So many people either can’t afford to buy a house or don’t want to. In any case the Government has failed to build sufficient housing to meet the country’s needs and there’s a chronic shortage of rented council and social housing.
The vacuum has been filled by private landlords. But they are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their obligations as landlords to their tenants.
This is for a variety of reasons and it is apparent that many landlords do not wish to carry out the necessary enhancements to meet modern day living expectations.
The government has decided to take the side of the landlords against the interests of tenants. There is a huge loophole in the law which is being exploited. This allows the eviction of tenants who have made the house their home. The law allows eviction with only two months’ notice. It’s completely unacceptable.
You may recall the old English saying that ‘a person’s home is their castle’. In other words, that your home is a safe place for you and your family. But if you are a tenant, that precept does not hold.
Forty families a day have been threatened with ‘no-fault’ evictions since the Tories first vowed to ban them back in 2019. Among them a constituent of mine and his disabled partner who got in touch after receiving a Section 21 (S21) eviction notice from their landlord.
In fact we’re getting roughly one family a week contacting my office now, desperate for help as they are threatened with homelessness at a time of spiralling private sector rents and other housing costs. It’s brutal.
Such is the pressure on social housing, over 20,000 households in the Wakefield district alone are on housing waiting lists and over one million people nationally. They are uniquely vulnerable to unscrupulous landlords, who hold all, or most of, the cards.
The government must act now to end no fault evictions. More than 54,000 households were threatened with eviction from April 2019 – when the government pledged to end the practice – to December 2022. That’s equivalent to 1,200 every month, with almost 17,000 no-fault evictions taking place over the same period.
Even the government’s own figures show that threats of eviction using S21 notices rose 69 per cent over the previous 12 months – while instances of actual evictions more than doubled.
Some of the increase in the use of S21s has been driven by the change to the Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) regulations which, from 1 April, made it unlawful to let a property with an EPC rating below E. The government is now consulting on raising that to a minimum of C by 2030.
It’s disgraceful that, while measures which could have been foreseen would impact on eviction rates were brought in, four years on from that initial promise to transform private renting, we are still waiting.
The proposal then was to not just scrap S21s but to create a register of landlords and a private rented ombudsman to help enforce renters’ rights, along with making it illegal for landlords and agents to refuse to rent properties to benefit claimants and giving local authorities more power to enforce and protect renters.
Not until February 2022 did we then get a renewed commitment in in the Levelling Up white paper to ending no fault evictions, followed by the inclusion of a Renters’ Reform Bill in last year’s Queen’s Speech and then the publication of A Fairer Private Rented Sector white paper, aimed at improving standards in the private sector.
Finally, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has announced that a bill will be brought forward at the end of the parliamentary session. This is welcome, but there must be no more delays. Every private renter should have long-term security in their home and the power to assert their rights.
I’ve been writing to the minister and the local authority to try to get action. That is why I’ve now laid an EDM in parliament which condemns the government’s failure to fulfil their promise to ban no fault evictions, especially during a global pandemic and then a cost-of-living crisis which is making soaring rents unaffordable.
This shouldn’t be a party political issue – it’s about people’s lives, their homes, their families. What sort of society allows vulnerable households to live with the constant fear of being forced onto the street, to the extent that many put up with substandard and downright dangerous living conditions for fear of being evicted if they complain?
There can be no watering down of the original proposals. A landlord register, alongside the scrapping of S21 notices, is vital because it will mean people entering into a tenancy agreement know who they are paying rent to and that it is to someone they can trust to follow the law and ensure their properties meet legal requirements.
Ultimately, the bill must rebalance the rights and responsibilities of renters and tenants to drive up standards. And it must do so urgently.
This article was first published on Labour List