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‘I had a meltdown’: The woman evicted twice in 18 months through no fault of her own – as delays to law change continue

Almost one million private renters in England have been handed no-fault evictions since the Conservative government promised to abolish them, new data has shown.

Research carried out by YouGov on behalf of homelessness charity Shelter – and shared exclusively with Sky News – showed that since April 2019 a total of 943,000 people had been given Section 21 notices, which is the equivalent of more than 500 renters every day.

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The figures also showed unwanted moves were costing private renters in England £550m a year, with 830,000 people having to move in the last 12 months alone due to either their fixed tenancies coming to an end, being priced out by rent increases or being served with a Section 21.

Add in the soaring upfront costs for rents and deposits and unwanted moves are costing more than £1bn a year – or an average of £1,245 per person.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said tenants were “bearing the cost of the government’s inaction” and warned any further delays to banning no-fault evictions would see more people “tipped into homelessness”.

But Levelling Up minister Jacob Young defended the government. He said abolishing Section 21s was “the biggest change to the private rented sector in more than 30 years” so it “takes time to make sure we get it right”.

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In England, the equivalent of more than 500 renters a day are being evicted through no fault of their own. Pic: iStock

A Section 21 notice is the legal mechanism allowing landlords to evict tenants without providing a reason, which creates uncertainty for those who rent their homes.

The government first promised to ban them five years ago this week – back when Theresa May was still in Number 10.

Yet despite subsequent Conservative leaders pledging to see through the policy, it still hasn’t come into law – with the housing secretary announcing an indefinite delay to the Renters Reform Bill last month.

‘I had a meltdown’

Natalie was served with two Section 21 notices within 18 months.

The 47-year-old from Brighton told Sky News she received the first one just after COVID and she took it in her stride. She said: “It wasn’t an ideal rental, it was quite dilapidated… but I had got into quite a good relationship with the landlord and I wasn’t freaking out. They just wanted to sell their flat and get out of the rental market.”

However, the relationship soon soured and turned into a “nasty environment” as she struggled to find a new home in a market with soaring costs and poor quality places.

“You couldn’t even see a property without having a £35k guarantor or you would have to have a whole year’s rent in advance and it just turned into a figures game,” said Natalie.

“If you don’t look good on paper, you are not going to get to see a flat, you are not going to be considered for it. You are not going to tick all the boxes. It is financial discrimination.”

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Natalie faced two no-fault evictions within 18 months

After staying with friends for two months, Natalie found a new property, but in the first three weeks, it had flooded, and she noticed day by day the “shoddy workmanship”.

And after a year, again through no fault of her own, she got a call from the estate agent to say the rent was going up by £150 a month and she would need to leave.

Natalie said she had a “meltdown”.

“It’s an awful thing, not feeling like you’re an adult and not being able to support yourself or find space in a location you have decided is home – finding out that it doesn’t mean anything that you have been living there for 21 years,” she said.

She added: “I’d like people to be able to have a home if we are living in a so-called civilised society. How’s anybody supposed to get anywhere without having their home? It should just be like water and air – we all need that to function.

“Something really drastic needs to be done.”

Tories criticised for ‘excuse’ holding back change

Mr Young, the Levelling Up minister, told Sky News his “hope” and “primary focus” was to see the bill passed, banning Section 21s for new tenancies before the next general election – which must take place before the end of January 2025.

But he couldn’t “give a commitment on a solid date” for the ban to also apply to existing tenancies, meaning millions – including Natalie – would continue to be at risk of losing their homes.

“We have to do this in a proportionate and phased way, working with the sector to make sure our reforms are actually effective,” he told Sky News.

“If we were to abolish everything straightaway, that would create a lot of uncertainty in the sector.”


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However, Shelter’s Ms Neate argued the reason for the delay was not about getting the legislation right, but about “bowing to backbench landlords”.

A group of Tory MPs – a number of whom are landlords themselves – raised concerns the courts were not prepared for the legal cases that could result from the simpler mechanism being outlawed.

As a result, the government said Section 21s would remain in place until an assessment had been made of whether the legal system could handle the changes.

But Ms Neate called it an “excuse”. She said: “The reason why they’re delaying is because they’re under pressure from their own backbenchers, many of whom are landlords, who just don’t want to see no-fault evictions ending.

“Why you would want the right to evict somebody for absolutely no reason is beyond me, frankly.”

She added: “Our frontline services every single day are seeing the worst effects of this.

“Section 21 no-fault eviction is one of the leading causes of homelessness in this country. And that’s why we’re so eager for the government to end it.”

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Government still ‘committed’ to abolishing no-fault evictions

Mr Young denied there were “vested interests” in his party and said he did not “begrudge” his colleagues for having rental properties.

He said: “We can’t just listen to one side of the sector in this argument. It has to be that we’re delivering a bill that benefits both tenants and landlords.

“This bill is about protecting good tenants and landlords, and pitting them against the rogue actors in the system.”

Revealing his own aunt had been subject to a Section 21 just before Christmas, Mr Young added: “It takes time to make sure that we get it right. There are 11 million renters in the country. If we get it wrong for those 11 million renters, that doesn’t help them at all.

“I know the uncertainty that [Section 21s] can provide to families. That’s why I’m committed to abolishing it. That’s why I’m focused on delivering this.”

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Conservative minister Jacob Young defended the government, despite his aunt being subject to a Section 21 before Christmas

Matthew Pennycook, Labour’s shadow minister for housing and planning, said his party is committed to ending the “ever-present fear” of Section 21s “immediately” if it gets into power – and would put forward amendments for government legislation to speed up the process.

He told Sky News the abolition of no-fault evictions could be done “overnight” if the Conservatives chose to, leading to “a stable private rental system… [where] families can live and thrive in what should be their homes, not just an asset that can just be taken back at a moment’s notice”.

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Labour promises ‘immediate’ end to no-fault evictions

Mr Pennycook also said he believed the court system could “cope” with the changes, but added: “I think what private tenants would argue is [the government has] had five years to get to the point where that they can introduce a system to honour this commitment to abolish Section 21 notices, and they’ve played around for far too long.

“We think they’re selling out to vested interests in bringing these changes forward.”

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