44,000 renters faced homelessness in our wait for eviction reform

Sep 26, 2021 12:16 PM

In April 2019, the government promised to abolish Section 21 "no fault" evictions. Two years later, we're still waiting for Parliament to change the law.

In the meantime more than 40,000 households in England have been threatened with homelessness by landlords using no-fault eviction grounds, according to government figures we've analysed.

The Prime Minister’s local borough of Hillingdon has the second worst rate in the country with 29 in every 1000 private renter households having faced homelessness after complaining about disrepair, or their landlord decided to sell or re-let their home.

As the government develops its White Paper on the Private Rented Sector, we are calling for measures that allow renters to challenge evictions when the landlord wishes to sell, and provides them with financial support if forced to move for reasons outside their control.

In April 2019, the government announced plans to abolish Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act, which allows landlords to seek an eviction without needing a reason. Landlords use this when selling up, but can also abuse it to re-let at a higher rent, or to avoid making repairs. Councils record these reasons when renters seek their support with threatened homelessness.

Between April 2019 and March 2021, councils dealt with 557,030 cases of homelessness, of which 91,710 were private tenants facing eviction. Of these, 44,040 households were facing eviction due to their landlord selling up, re-letting or evicting following a complaint by the tenant. This figure represents 0.9% of England’s 4.7m private renter households - though this is smaller than the true number of evictions as not everyone will seek their council's help.

The worst hit area is Outer London, with Havering, Hillingdon and Barking & Dagenham having the highest rates of private renters facing homelessness on no-fault grounds (the rate in Havering is 30 in every 1000 private renters, and 27 in Barking & Dagenham). Towns in the wider south and midlands are also affected, with Wolverhampton and Derby facing twice the national rate.

Being forced to move for reasons outside your control creates unimaginable stress, uproots you from your community and disrupts children’s education. Right now landlords need no reason to inflict this on their tenants. The government has rightly committed to the abolition of Section 21 evictions, but this is too late for the thousands of renters who have faced homelessness while the reforms have been delayed.

To give renters the security that everyone should expect from their home, the government must make sure that the use of new eviction grounds for sale is minimised and landlords who force their blameless tenants out provide adequate financial support.”

Our research

Generation Rent compared the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) Statutory Homelessness in England figures for 2019-20 and 2020-21 with population estimates for the whole private rented sector taken from the Office for National Statistics Subnational dwelling stock by tenure estimates for England for 2019.

The reasons for loss or threat of loss of home of interest are “Landlord wishing to sell or re-let the property” (42,700 in total) and “Tenant complained to the council / agent / landlord about disrepair” (1340 in total). The 91,710 figure represents only those evicted tenants who sought support from their council – more will find a new home without the council’s support. Last month we estimated that the median household incurs costs worth £1,709 when moving home – read more here.

The homelessness data is not complete, with breakdowns unavailable for either year for 10 councils (including Brighton, Hounslow, Redbridge and Wandsworth), and 29 councils only providing breakdowns for one of the years. Of the latter, Newham and Stevenage had eviction rates of roughly twice the national average.

A summary of the data for each local authority is available here.

Further information about our proposals for tenancy reform are available here.