UK to Remove No-Fault Eviction Clause from Private Tenancy Law

No Fault Evictions

It’s going to be a lot harder to be evicted in the UK soon.

The UK government is removing the Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction clause from private tenancy law. With statistics suggesting 27% of homelessness is attributed to a private tenancy ending, this could make life easier for private tenants here.

The BBC reported this week, “Private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants at short notice without good reason under new plans. The government says it wants to protect renters from ‘unethical’ landlords and give them more long-term security.”

UK Housing Statistics

Twenty percent of all households in the UK are private rental as house prices have rocketed to well above average income affordable levels, and the social housing estate is shrinking.

The UK Parliament published a report late last year looking at the problem of no-fault evictions in the UK. Amongst other things the report found:

  • There has been a substantial increase in recorded homelessness due to the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). In 2010/11, homelessness was given as a reason in 6,630 cases (15% of the total), rising to a peak of 18,270 cases (31% of the total) in 2016/17. In 2017/18, there were 15,490 cases (27% of the total).
  • Churn within the private rented sector (i.e. moves within the sector) has increased over the last 20 years, from 465,000 households in 1996-97 to 860,000 in 2016-17.
  • Overall, 10% of tenants said they moved because of notice given by their landlord.

Being a private rental tenant is precarious. AST only guarantees a resident can stay in one place for six months. At that point, the landlord can simply chuck them out with two months’ notice. This has made life for one fifth of households in the UK as stable as the whim of the landlord.

Cheaper to Evict Than Maintain?

It is cheaper and more sensible to have good, long-term tenants. However, some landlords use the no-fault eviction to avoid properly maintaining the home. Let’s say a tenant complains of damp, black mould or dangerous electric supply. The landlord may chuck them out with a no-fault eviction and replace them with someone desperate enough to live there.

The Guardian reported earlier this year that while there are protections against so-called ‘revenge evictions’ where the tenant reports the issue to the housing team of a local council, “Just one in 20 private tenants who complain to their council about poor living conditions gets protection from a revenge eviction by their landlord.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Generation Rent Director Dan Wilson Craw said: “These figures demonstrate that despite powers and protections, tenants living in squalid homes are being let down by their councils. If landlords are free to evict tenants who complain about disrepair, then we cannot expect the quality of private rented homes to improve.”

This Won’t Stop Evictions

Addressing the BBC, the National Landlords Association complained government proposals could make it impossible to evict tenants. This really isn’t the case. Section 8 eviction allows landlords to evict tenants who have accrued rent arrears or have been exhibiting antisocial behavior. This would include drug use, partying and other behaviours that impact other residents. Section 8 eviction requires a court order. When the tenant is desperate, bailiffs will physically remove them at some cost to the landlord.

Increasing rent so that a tenant can no longer pay, then pursuing a Section 8 eviction is another issue. This especially blights tenants in high-demand cities like London and Bristol. The Boring Money website suggests, “Landlords can be a bit casual with their rent increases. Even worse, if they are the ‘hands-off’ sort of landlord, often property agents will increase the rent by a set percentage without the landlord knowing.”

The Buy To Let mortgage has also added to the already overheated house price inflation. This financing allows someone to buy a home and guarantee its income to the bank by letting it out. Ultimately, it makes buying out of reach to many AND forces rent up to meet an inflating market’s demands.

For those who need government support, neither Universal Credit or Local Housing Allowance have seen real term increases in years. Worsening the issue, few workplaces have offered above-inflation pay increases beyond the legally mandated Minimum Wage in recent years. Rents are becoming a huge chunk of people’s outgoings often resulting in the Section 8 warrant.

Housing charity Generation Rent stated, “Ending no fault evictions won’t make the difference needed if landlords can increase the rent by hundreds of pounds a month to drive out tenants economically if they report a leak.”

A Brighter Future Even So?

Housing charities have welcomed the proposals. Generation Rent added in their statement, “The announcement that the government will end section 21 evictions and create open-ended tenancies is brilliant, but it’s also just the start. For example, we know they’ll allow grounds for landlords to evict if they want to sell the property or move back in, so we need make sure that tenants evicted for these reasons get a longer notice period than the current two months, compensation to mitigate the financial hardship of an unwanted move, and that there are safeguards such as requiring landlord to prove they really do intend to sell.”

While the war to secure tenancies in the UK is far from over, this is a great start. Let’s just hope the much-hyped proposals become reality. And those who are forced to rent privately can indeed get the security they so desperately need.


Richard Shrubb

Richard Shrubb

  

With a background as a mental health service user, Richard has been a leading UK social affairs writer in the past. He now focuses this energy in social justice in the most economically deprived town of the UK, Weymouth in Dorset while looking after his wife, daughter and three cats in nearby Prince Charles' housing estate of Poundbury.

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