Abolishing Section 21 Will Protect Renters From Revenge Evictions – I Should Know, I Was One Of Them

It's a big step, but without rent controls, this announcement will do nothing to mitigate the soaring rents that are pushing many out of their homes.

My family and I were living just outside of Croydon, in a flat we had been in for five years, with my children happily settled in school when Section 21 first made us homeless. The landlord had always been slow with repairs but when water started pouring from the live electrical fitting in the downstairs toilet, we hoped they would act a little faster. Months and months went by, multiple complaints were made – but we were ignored. The light had completely stopped working, so much water had soaked into the carpet that it reeked of damp and eventually, the tiles started to fall off the wall. We kept reporting, showing inspectors and calling the agency. Eventually, we were issued a Section 21.

Many won’t have heard about Section 21, a little-known law which means landlords can evict tenants without giving a reason, but its effects can be devastating. When we were first issued one, we had no savings, two kids, and an income that would not stretch to a deposit and a first month’s rent. We eventually managed to beg, borrow and steal what was needed for a new place and moved to central Croydon, managing to get the kids into a new school and settled. My partner and I split up but remained friends, both focused on trying to give our kids as much stability as possible. Two months after my partner moved out we were yet again issued another Section 21, due to expire one year after our move in date. The agent told us the landlord had only ever wanted tenants for a year and had always intended to sell the flat.

Our story is not unusual. Section 21 is used every day to unfairly evict tenants, and is the largest cause of homelessness in the country. Your landlord might decide they want to raise your rent, sell their property, or just that they don’t want to make the repairs that you’ve asked for. Thankfully, we had somewhere else to go. My kids and I never ended up in temporary accommodation, but so many young families in my community are not as lucky.

So this week marks a big step forward for renters living in precarious housing as the Government is announcing the launch of a consultation on abolishing Section 21. My experience showed me how badly renting in the UK needs to be reformed. In May 2018, shortly before my second Section 21 in twelve months, the incoming administration of Croydon Council indicated in their manifesto that they would support the establishment of a tenants’ union in the borough. In October 2018, I was sat in the public gallery as the council passed a motion, the first of any council, calling on the Government to abolish Section 21. My local authority was doing everything it could to help people like me, but we still lacked the local organisation needed amongst renters to tip the scales.

The same remains true today – Section 21 can only be the start.

The Government’s announcement on Section 21 is welcome but it’s not going to solve all the problems of private renting. Without rent controls, this announcement will do nothing to mitigate the soaring rents that are pushing many out of their homes. Local and national governments have to be part of this change, but the community has an intrinsic role to play in driving this change.

In prohibition-era Harlem, when renters struggled to make ends meet, the community came together at ‘rent parties’ to dance, play, and help keep a roof over their neighbours’ heads. Now it’s time for us to do the same. In Croydon, we’re hearing those lessons from the past and bringing together our diverse community by launching our very own Croydon Rent Party. We’re doing this because you cannot build a social movement without first engaging with and empowering the community around you to build the power and the change that we all wish to see. The renters’ revolution is just getting started - and as rent parties show, it starts on the dancefloor.


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