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What are no-fault evictions? Michael Gove vows to protect renters before election

The Government is looking to protect private renters from so-called no-fault evictions  (Dominic Lipinski / PA Archive)
The Government is looking to protect private renters from so-called no-fault evictions (Dominic Lipinski / PA Archive)

Michael Gove has claimed that no-fault evictions will be banned starting this year.

First proposed back in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto, the long-promised pledge could mark the end to Section 21 evictions in 2024.

Speaking on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Gove claimed that the Government would enact the ban before the next general election, helping to protect 11 million renters from being evicted for no reason.

“We will have outlawed it, and we will put the money into the courts in order to ensure that they can enforce it,” Gove promised on the show.

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ recent promise comes after a number of previous pledges to get the Renters Reform Bill rolling.

Gove made similar promises to scrap Section 21 evictions in May 2023, only for the ban to be delayed indefinitely in October to make way for “vital” court reforms.

If put into practice as promised, the plan would prevent landlords from evicting their tenants without a reason.

Other parts of the Renters Reform Bill may give tenants the legal right to ask to keep a pet in their home. The bill would also make it illegal for landlords and agents to impose blanket bans on renting to benefit claimants or families with children.An ombudsman would oversee disputes while a digital “property portal” will be set up to assist property managers in understanding their obligations, according to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

While Gove argues an end to Section 21 evictions is necessary to protect UK renters, some campaigners have argued the bill doesn’t go far enough.

Labour’s Angela Rayner said: “Having broken the justice system, the Tories are now using their own failure to indefinitely delay keeping their promises to renters in the most underhand way.”

But what is a no-fault eviction and why are they controversial – here is everything you need to know.

What are no-fault evictions?

At present, a no-fault eviction – known in legal terms as a Section 21 – gives landlords the legal right to evict tenants and repossess properties they own, without having to give a reason. They do not have to establish any fault on behalf of the tenant, and the tenant may not have done anything wrong to be kicked out of their home.

A section 21 allows landlords to effectively evict a tenant without having to give any reason for doing so, with just two months’ notice.

Why are no-fault evictions controversial?

Shelter – the homelessness charity – says that the loss of a private tenancy is a leading trigger of homelessness in England, and renters have zero rights to appeal under the process.

Section 21s are unpopular with tenants and charities as they stop renters from having certainty and security in the place they live. It is hoped the new law will protect people from unfair landlords.

Some believe that landlords have abused the Section 21 in the past, kicking out long-term tenants only to re-rent again to new people at an inflated cost.

Government figures released in February revealed the number of households living in privately rented homes in England who were evicted by bailiffs as a result of Section 21 proceedings increased by 143 per cent in a single year.

A total of 792 households were slapped with Section 21s between October and December in 2021, in comparison to 1,924 between October and December 2022.

Renters were given a temporary relief during the Covid pandemic, with an eviction ban but, once the practice was allowed again, evictions rocketed.

The stats on repossessions and evictions were released by the Ministry of Justice and showed that a total of 6,101 landlords in England started Section 21 no-fault eviction court proceedings between October and December 2022 – a 69 per cent increase in a year and a 47 per cent increase on the same period in 2019 before the pandemic and eviction ban were put in place.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “No-fault evictions are pushing too many people needlessly into homelessness and turning thousands of people’s lives upside down. The Government has long promised it would scrap Section 21. Renters can’t wait any longer, the Renters’ Reform Bill is ready to go – it’s time the Government stopped stalling and changed the law.”

Homelessness charity Crisis has backed the call to ban them and carried out a survey in December, which found that nearly one million low-income households across Britain feared eviction in the coming months.

Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, said: “The devastating impact of the cost-of-living crisis, rising rents and low wages has once again been laid bare as thousands more renters are faced with eviction and the very real threat of being left with nowhere to go.

“With rents rising at their fastest rate in 16 years, the Government cannot continue to look the other way as more and more people are forced into homelessness.”

Reports have suggested delays to the introduction of the Section 21 ban have also coincided with a rise in rental repossessions. According to the BBC, renters that received Section 21 notices increased by 49 per cent last year – from 6,339 to 9,457.

When are no-fault evictions being banned?

The Renters’ (Reform) Bill was first published on Wednesday, May 17, 2023 in Parliament, before being halted a few months later.

Although initial efforts stalled, Gove appears confident that the Section 21 ban will come into place this year, before the general election.

While no date has been announced for the election, it is expected to take place in the second half of 2024.

Before the bill can be enacted into law, it will require scrutiny and debate by MPs and peers before receiving royal assent if passed by both houses of Parliament.