The number of people being evicted from private rental property through no fault of their own in the Bristol area has more than doubled since before the covid pandemic, new figures have revealed.
And the controversial ‘no-fault evictions’, which give people just two months to find alternative accommodation, are now happening at the rate of one a day in Bristol, south Gloucestershire and north Somerset.
The spike in Section 21 eviction orders has led to fresh calls from Shelter, a housing charity, for the practice to be stopped and for the government to keep its promise to end ‘evictions’ without fault’ under new legislation.
Read more: Bristol’s ‘unfair’ private rental market ‘breaks up communities’
Section 21 of the Housing Act gives landlords the ability to evict their tenants without cause or cause, provided they give them two months’ notice. Evictions are happening more and more as rents soar, with letting agents in Bristol even writing to landlords to tell them they could raise rents by hundreds of pounds a month and still be able to find another tenant.
The figures, which have been released by the government’s Department for Leveling, Housing and Communities, show a massive rise in the number of people and households being evicted by their landlords – and also show how much worse the problem is in Bristol than in other parts of the country. The three months of October, November and December 2019 were the last full quarter before the covid pandemic hit in early 2020, and this saw no-fault evictions temporarily banned under covid lockdown rules.
In those three months at the end of 2019, there were a total of 57 ‘Article 21, No Fault’ evictions in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. By October, November and December 2021, that number had more than doubled to 129, or more than one per day for the 92 days between October 1 and December 31 last year.
‘No-fault’ evictions are just the tip of the iceberg for people living in private accommodation who lose their homes in the short term – figures reveal a total of 663 households have lost their homes in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire in the last three months of 2021 – that’s more than seven a day or 50 a week.
The vast majority of them – some 558 – were in Bristol, where things are so bad that Shelter, local tenants’ union Acorn and other campaigners have come together to form a Bristol Fair Rents campaign, backed by Bristol Live.
Across the country, ‘no fault’ evictions are on the rise – increasing by 37% between 2019 and 2021. This means the number of evictions is growing more than three times faster in Bristol than in the rest of England.
Now homeless charity Shelter is calling on the government to keep its promise to ban no-fault evictions by committing to a Tenant Reform Bill in the Queen’s Speech.
It was in May 2019 that then Housing Minister James Brokenshire revealed he had decided to end ‘no-fault’ Section 21 evictions, after meeting people living in shelter recently opened homeless shelter in St Annes, Bristol. Mr Brokenshire tragically died last October, around the time the Queen announced in Parliament that her government would introduce new legislation banning the practice. But Shelter has now stressed that has yet to happen, with few signs that the government is delivering on its promises.
The charity fears the cost of living crisis will mean that many tenants will not be able to cover the unexpected costs of finding new accommodation, such as putting down a deposit or paying rent. rent in advance.
Polly Neate, Managing Director of Shelter, said: “These are real people who have been chewed up and spat out by our broken private rental system, and now face an uphill battle to find a place to shelter.
“Our hotline is inundated with calls from people whose lives have been turned upside down by unexpected and unfair evictions. If landlords follow the process, as things stand, they can evict people from their homes for no reason – and tenants are powerless to do anything about it.
“No-fault evictions are direct, brutal and indiscriminate. England’s 11 million private tenants have waited long enough for a fairer system – it’s time for the government to introduce a Tenant Reform Bill and scrap Section 21 where it belongs.
A separate YouGov poll with Shelter suggests nearly 230,000 private tenants have received formal eviction notices without fail. This equates to one tenant every seven minutes.
In total, government data shows 33,800 households became homeless in England last winter. This includes 8,410 families with children – an 18% increase in one year and brings family homelessness back to pre-pandemic levels.
A spokesman for the Department of Leveling, Housing and Communities, said: “These figures show that the action we are taking to tackle homelessness is already having an impact – the Homelessness Reduction Act has prevented more than 475,000 households from becoming homeless or helped them get homes settled since 2018 and we are building on that success with £316m in funding this year.
“The government is providing a £22billion package to help households cope with rising costs and we will deliver reforms to support tenants, including ending ‘no-fault’ Section 21 evictions. “
Anyone experiencing homelessness can get free, expert advice from Shelter by visiting www.shelter.org.uk/get_help.
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