The organisation responsible for campaigning on behalf of renters in the UK, Generation Rent, has begun fighting to oppose the use of Section 21 notices by landlords, which it claims are the primary cause behind homelessness. A Section 21 notice allows letting agents and landlords to evict tenants without providing a reason, and it’s typically utilised when the landlord wishes to sell the rental property. Citing a new report, Generation Rent has explained that the main reason for homelessness since 2012 is the ending of a private rental tenancy. However, prior to this announcement, no-one had previously suspected Section 21 notices to be the main cause.
Generation Rent has explained that the use of Section 21s has surged in recent years. However, the notices cannot be utilised if the landlord has failed to follow regulations on safety and health. By analysing data from the Ministry of Justice on repossession, tenancy and homelessness, whether intentional or unintentional, the group claims that homelessness caused by the stopping of a private rental tenancy has risen by 92 per cent within London. This compares to 88 per cent outside the city for no-fault evictions.
In contrasting analysis, many claim the statistics simply show a rise in Section 21 notices and an increase in homelessness with no definitive evidence that one has caused the other. Generation Rent however, has described it as “uncanny” that both homelessness and the number of Section 21s issued have grown along comparable trajectories.
There are some disparities in the figures. For instance, within London, there are more homelessness cases attributed to Section 21 notices, as for every 100 Section 21 evictions, 88 households are accepted as homeless. Whereas outside London, more households become homeless due to eviction by bailiffs, as for every 100 notices served, 159 households are homeless.
Generation Rent explains that the disparities arise from the absence of available accommodation within London, as evicted households become homeless due to a lack of support and stricter council criteria, which lowers the expectations of tenants. Generation Rent is also concerned that some tenants that are evicted may not come forward as homeless, due to their immigration status, which will give them no access to government support.
As the housing deficiency is not as large outside London, councils tend to have more capacity to aid tenants during the early stages of an eviction, so less landlords apply for eviction in the courts to use bailiffs. The group explains that there were over 6,700 repossessions within London in 2017 which used bailiffs under an accelerated process that the organisation associates with Section 21. From these repossessions, London accepted over 5,200 households as homeless, due to the ending of a private tenancy.
Outside the city, there were over 5,900 repossessions from Section 21 notices, with over 11,000 households made homeless from the ending of a private tenancy. Generation Rent has joined Acorn, an anti-landlord organisation, as well as the New Economics Foundation and London Renters Union to campaign to the Government to discard Section 21 notices, and they have collected around 50,000 signatures in a petition to support the move. They claim that if the Government is genuine in its attempts to prevent homelessness, then Section 21 must be abolished.
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