The campaign group Generation Rent is back on the warpath in opposition of Section 21, which it describes as “the leading cause of homelessness.”
The provision allows landlords, or agents acting on their behalf, to evict a tenant with no reason given - it is typically done when a property is to be sold by its owner.
Citing new research, Generation Rent says that since 2012 the end of a private tenancy has been the leading cause of homelessness “but until now no one has specifically pointed the finger at Section 21 - today, we've been able to demonstrate it.”
The campaign group says in recent years there has been a surge in the use of S21 by landlords, notwithstanding the fact that it cannot be used if there have been failures by the landlord to abide by some health and safety regulations.
By analysing Ministry of Justice tenancy, repossession, and unintentionally and intentionally homeless figures, Generation Rent claims that “92 per cent of the rise in homelessness cases caused by the end of a private tenancy in London can be explained by no-fault evictions, while 88 per cent is the figure outside London.”
However, this analysis appears to simply see a rise in S21 and a rise in homelessness without any solid evidence that one leads to the other - Generation Rent merely describes the fact that both have risen along similar trajectories as “uncanny.”
When there is a disparity, Generation Rent claims it has an explanation.
For example, it notes that in London there are more S21 evictions than related homelessness cases (88 households accepted as homeless for every 100 S21 evictions), while outside London more households are accepted as homeless than are evicted by bailiffs (for every 100 S21 evictions there are 159 households accepted as homeless).
“The disparity in London between evicted households and those who are accepted as homeless can be explained by the lack of available accommodation in the capital. With less support to offer, councils there are stricter in applying the criteria to homelessness applications, which in turn lowers tenants’ expectations. In addition, many victims of eviction may not present as homeless as their immigration status gives them no recourse to public funds” says the campaign group.
“Outside London, because the housing shortage is not so acute, councils have comparatively more capacity to help at an earlier stage in the eviction process, so more households can be helped before the landlord applies to the court for bailiffs.”
Generation Rent says that in 2017 there were 6,724 repossessions by bailiffs in London under the accelerated process, which it equates with S21. Councils in London accepted a duty to 5,260 households who had been made homeless by the end of a private tenancy.
Outside London, there were 5,987 S21 repossessions, and 11,070 homelessness cases arising from the end of a private tenancy.
Generation Rent is campaigning alongside well-known anti-agent and anti-landlord organisation Acorn, as well as the London Renters Union and the New Economics Foundation to get the government to scrap S21, and claims some 50,000 signatures for a petition in favour of the move.
Generation Rent says: “Section 21 is indefensible. The ability of landlords to evict tenants without grounds allows them to cash in their assets and leave wider society to pick up the tab in the form of expensive temporary accommodation, and misery for the people affected. Councils have new responsibilities to prevent homelessness and the government has just launched a strategy to end rough sleeping, but they have no chance of success if landlords can continue to kick out tenants with impunity. If the government is serious about preventing homelessness it must abolish Section 21.”