Anti-Section 21 protesters. Photograph: courtesy of Generation Rent

Tenants’ rights campaigners in Hackney and across the country are celebrating after the government unveiled plans to scrap controversial no-fault evictions.

Section 21 notices allow landlords to boot out tenants at short notice and without good reason.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire yesterday announced that Whitehall is to consult on new legislation to end Section 21 evictions, calling it the “biggest change to the private rental sector in a generation”.

Pressure groups such as Hackney Digs and Generation Rent, along with support from the Town Hall, have long been calling for no-fault evictions to be abolished.

However, the National Landlords Association (NLA) claims Section 21 provides its members with a backstop to overcome the “ineffective” Section 8 process, where a landlord has to go to court to regain possession of a property.

But Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, said the government has “listened to renters and made the right decision”.

He added: “Eleven million people in England have no idea where home will be in a year’s time, thanks to Section 21.

“The ability of landlords to evict without reason is disrupting educations, eroding our communities, and leaving tenants feeling powerless.”

Research by Generation Rent has shown that Section 21 evictions are the leading cause of homelessness in England.

Heather Kennedy, housing organiser at the New Economics Foundation think-tank and a member of Hackney Digs, said: “Having been evicted using Section 21 twice in my life, most recently last winter, two days after discovering I was pregnant, I know how brutal and terrifying no-fault evictions are.”

Kennedy says the move to repeal Section 21 is a “massive victory”, but warned it may not go far enough.

She added: “Even if Section 21 is repealed, landlords can still use rent hikes to effectively evict tenants.

“Rent controls are the norm in Europe, and if the government is serious about improving life for renters, it must follow suit and urgently impose rent controls which bring rents down and make renting affordable.”

Samir Jeraj, Hackney Green Party spokesperson and co-author of 2016 exposé The Rent Trap, said the government’s announcement is “just one part of tackling the larger housing crisis”, adding: “Councils will need to be properly resourced to enforce the proposed protections, and the UK still has a chronic shortage of social housing.

“Hackney Digs have been at the forefront of this campaign since day one and massive credit is due to their work and campaigning.” 

Cllr Sem Moema has led the council’s Better Renting campaign.
Photograph: Hackney Council

Cllr Sem Moema, Hackney’s mayoral adviser for private renting, called on Whitehall to bring in the changes “as soon as possible” to help the borough’s 34,000 private renters.

She said: “While the announcement is welcome, the government must now deliver on this commitment without delay, setting out a clear timetable for legislation that does not allow landlords to wriggle out of their responsibilities with legal loopholes.”

Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NLA, said: “Landlords currently have little choice but to use Section 21.

“They have no confidence in the ability or the capacity of the courts to deal with possession claims quickly and surely, regardless of the strength of the landlord’s case. 

“England’s model of tenancy was always intended to operate in a sector where Section 21 exists. This change makes the fixed term meaningless, and so creates a new system of indefinite tenancies by the back door.   

“The onus is on the government to get this right. It’s entirely dependent on the government’s ability to re-balance the system through Section 8 and court process so that it works for landlords and tenants alike.”

But Generation Rent’s Wilson Craw said: “Landlords have been able to evict tenants from their homes without giving any reason.

“This allows some to intimidate tenants into keeping quiet about disrepair or poor practice.

“One in five households now rent from a private landlord but insecure tenancies mean they cannot put down roots.”

He added: “Ending Section 21 means that private renter families and older tenants will have greater financial security and are better able to thrive in their homes and communities.

“We look forward to working with the government to get the detail of a new open-ended tenancy right.”

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