For Renters, Not Having The Threat Of Eviction Hanging Over Us Is A Huge Victory

When my eviction notice came, I was recovering from minor surgery – for the 11million of us who rent, scrapping this barbaric law will improve our lives
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No eviction comes at a good time. When my Section 21 eviction notice landed I was recovering from minor surgery. I could barely sit up, let alone pack boxes or do the requisite traipsing around potential properties, fighting against tens of other tenants for an overpriced room. I was also three weeks away from my masters’ dissertation deadline, which I was doing on the side of my day job in the hope that a graduate degree would help me one day to be able to afford my rent, never mind a mortgage deposit.

Our landlord was very cagey about the eviction. They said it wasn’t our fault, it was a personal issue and they needed to move back in. When we pleaded for more time, they said yes, then no. After we moved, we saw the property advertised at a higher rent, which made us confused and angry.

I’m still paying off the debt I took on to find a new home. My health took months longer than expected to recover. And, despite being a community-minded person, I’m still hesitant to invest time getting to know my neighbours, because I’m anxious about getting attached then being pushed out again.

Like most renters, renting in the private sector is not a choice: saving enough for a deposit is years away, there’s no social housing available even when you’re made homeless. And moving back in with your parents is not an option, especially if you work in another town or have a family.

The rise of families in the private rented sector – one in four rents from a private landlord – is one trend that has shaken politicians out of their acceptance of the status quo. The end of a private tenancy is the leading cause of homelessness and 130,000 children are living in temporary accommodation.

For the rest of us there is no stability because landlords can evict you without giving a reason. That makes it hard to plan, and sometimes dangerous to complain. The longer we’re shut out of other tenures, the more that private renting policies determine our votes. That’s why in 2015 Labour offered up a three-year tenancy as the first attempt to reform the private rental market.

But promising a three-year tenancy is a hard sell – tenants moving into a new place rarely know if they’ll like it enough to stay long term, so even with break clauses allowing them to move out, the length of the tenancy is not the issue. It’s the knowledge that paying the rent means something, and that we can’t be kicked out without a very good reason, that matters.

Indeed, if a three-year tenancy ends with the landlord serving a no-fault Section 21 eviction notice, you still have to uproot those three years of life in your home and, if you’re priced out of the area, your community.

That’s why Generation Rent has been demanding an end to Section 21 evictions instead of three year tenancies – if a tenant meets the terms of their tenancy agreement, they should be able to stay as long as they want.

Renters unions have emerged over the past few years and this has been the burning issue around which our movement has coalesced. Whether our organisations are trying to find ways to improve the quality of rented homes, hearing from renters up and down the country who, like me, were evicted at their landlord’s whim, or physically stopping bailiffs from removing tenants from their home, it has been clear to all of us that Section 21 has to go.

So we formed the End Unfair Evictions coalition last year, delivered a 50,000 signature petition to the Housing Secretary, and encouraged thousands of renters to respond to the government’s consultation on three-year tenancies. We have since got MPs across the House agreeing that no-fault evictions are untenable, and brought think-tanks and local councils around to the same conclusion.

Now we’ve convinced the government which will now consult on legislation to scrap this barbaric law. It’s a huge victory for the 11 million of us who live in private rented homes – and it’s one that only coming about because tenants came together and demanded it. Without Section 21 hanging over us, we’ll be so much better able to plan our lives and exercise our rights to safe homes and fair treatment.

There’s more to be done to get the detail right and address underlying affordability problems in the sector which would remain no matter what happens to Section 21. But be in no doubt: policymakers are listening to renters and renters are setting the political agenda.

Hannah Slater is Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Generation Rent. The End Unfair Evictions coalition comprises Generation Rent, ACORN, London Renters Union, Tenants Union UK and New Economics Foundation