Renting: ‘no-fault’ evictions in England at record-high as families and renters hit by cost of living crisis

Families and households across the country are already struggling to pay rent and afford bills amidst the cost of living crisis

The number of people at risk of homelessness following ‘no-fault’ evictions has hit record levels, according to new government figures.

New data released by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities revealed that between January and March this year, 6,400 households in England were threatened with homelessness as a direct result of ‘no-fault’ evictions.

This is more than double the number reported during the same quarter last year, and is the highest number since records began.

It comes as families and households across the country struggle to pay rent and put food on the table amidst the mounting cost of living crisis.

The number of people hit with ‘no-fault’ evictions has hit a record high

Emma Johnson was evicted using a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction along with her seven-year-old son.

Her landlady wanted to rent the property to a friend instead.

Ms Johnson told NationalWorld: “It was horrifying. I was utterly terrified of becoming homeless.”

In collaboration with Generation Rent, she is now campaigning to stop ‘no-fault’ evictions during the cost of living crisis.

Ms Johnson explained that she has no issue with landlords evicting tenants who disrespect the property, or who do not pay rent, but said she could not see any reason to evict someone who had done nothing wrong.

‘I feel completely trapped’

She continued: “Landlords need to realise that their properties are not just objects.

“They’re people’s homes.”

Ms Johnson said she would describe herself as a good tenant: clean, reliable, always paid her rent on time. She had even paid six months’ rent in advance - which amounted to £9,500 - as she was at the time unable to work due to poor health.

“I can’t get over the injustice of it,” she continued. “I did absolutely nothing wrong and now I can’t live my life where and how I want to.”

Ms Johnson faced a period of six months where she and her son were considered homeless, living in one room at a friend’s house.

The family was eventually given council housing, but were forced to move to a different county.

They still live in the same two-bedroom flat.

Ms Johnson said: “I’m grateful that the council gave me somewhere to live, but it’s not suitable for my son and I.

“There are drugs, aggressive characters... it’s dirty and smelly. There’s nowhere for my son to play outside - and there are no children for him to play with.

“I’ve lost friends because people have been judgemental about my situation.

“I feel completely trapped.”

Ms Johnson said that with rents rising due to the cost of living crisis, it is impossible to find an affordable home.

But she added that she has now lost confidence in the private rental sector, as “there’s no stability”.

Emma Johnson and her seven-year-old son were forced to move counties after their no-fault eviction

“You can’t be certain about your future,” she explained. “What if the same thing happens to me again?”

Ms Johnson said she wants to make sure no one else experiences what she and her son did - and that renting needs to be possible as not everyone is lucky enough to be able to own their own home.

She said: “I felt like a failure through the whole thing - my son asked questions that no seven-year-old should have to ask.

“We’re both very unhappy with where we live now, and we’re under a lot of stress.

“We hope to move one day, but I’m not sure when that will be.”

‘Cost of living crisis is wreaking havoc on renters’ lives’

Charities say they are receiving calls every day from those who have been forced to leave their home through no fault of their own, and are worried the issue will only worsen as energy bills skyrocket this autumn.

Matt Downie, chief executive of homeless charity Crisis, told NationalWorld: “It is deeply concerning that thousands are being forced from their homes and must now face an anxious battle to find somewhere new to live, all at a time when rents are going through the roof and people’s budgets are being squeezed to breaking point.

“We know just how tough it is for renters right now as the cost of living crisis wreaks havoc on their lives.”

He added that at the charity, they are seeing people being asked to provide several months of rent in advance to secure a property, while others are being pushed into debt because their housing benefits do not cover their increased rent prices.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, echoed these thoughts: “It’s alarming that as the living cost crisis rages, more landlords are kicking tenants out of their homes.

“These are real people whose lives are being turned upside down and simply cannot afford to lose their homes right now.”

When people receive a no-fault eviction, which is the colloquial term for a Section 21 notice to end an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the landlord is not required to give a reason for their plan to evict.

Housing experts have explained that the cost of living crisis has put extra pressure on the rental market because landlords, seeing their income reduced in real terms by inflation, want to evict their tenants to sell up or increase rents at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet.

Ms Neate said this means many do not have the funds to put down a deposit for a new home - or cannot afford the higher rents which the housing market is seeing at the moment.

Both chief executives appealed for the Renters’ Reform Bill, which was announced by the Government in June but has not yet made it through Parliament, to come into full force.

Mr Downie said: “How much more hardship are we going to let people endure?

“It’s crucial that whoever becomes our new Prime Minister in the next month prioritises introducing the Renters Reform Bill, so we can finally protect people from the trauma and turmoil that comes from being turfed from your home at a moment’s notice.”

Ms Neate said: “The Government has promised renters three times that it will introduce a Renters’ Reform Bill to scrap unfair no-fault evictions.

“It must now get the job done as every minute wasted puts another renter at risk.”

She added that although scrapping no-fault evictions will of course not solve the cost of living crisis for renters, it will at the very least “give them some much needed security in their homes.”

What the Government said

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the increase in no-fault evictions was a result of the market responding to the recent lifting of restrictions.

During the pandemic, The Coronavirus Act 2020 imposed an eviction ban to protect private renters - but this ban is no longer in place.

A spokesperson told NationalWorld: “These figures show our measures to protect people during the pandemic have worked to keep levels of homelessness remaining broadly stable.

“We took action to protect renters and prevent homelessness by providing councils with an additional £65 million [to top up the Homelessness Prevention Grant], in order to help vulnerable households with rent arrears and reduce the risk of them becoming homeless.”

Charities have pointed out however that the ban was not lifted until 1 June, but the Government figures which show record levels of evictions are dated between January and April.

In addition, before the ban was put in place, (between January and March 2020), there were 4,470 evictions as a result of a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ notice - which is 40% less than the figures we are currently seeing.

The Levelling Up Department added that the Government is currently providing a £37 billion package of support to help households with rising costs, “including £1,200 this year for the most vulnerable - helping them to pay their bills and stay in their homes.”

They said the Renters Reform Bill will “fulfil our manifesto commitment to deliver a better deal for renters by abolishing Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.”

The legislation proposes a shift to periodic tenancies, which allow either party to end the tenancy when they need to.

The spokesperson said: “Our reforms will mean tenants enjoy greater security and feel empowered to challenge poor practice and unreasonable rent rises, whilst ensuring landlords have confidence they can regain possession when it is reasonable.”