What are no-fault evictions? Ban may not be introduced until after election

Earlier this year Michael Gove had said no-fault evictions would be outlawed this year (PA Wire)
Earlier this year Michael Gove had said no-fault evictions would be outlawed this year (PA Wire)

The Labour Party and campaigners have claimed that reforms to end no-fault evictions are at risk as the Government has bowed to pressure from Tory backbenchers to delay their implementation.

The Renters (Reform) Bill is set for its final stages in the House of Commons on Wednesday. But the Government has suggested it will delay the ban until the courts are deemed to have enough capacity to deal with new cases, prompting accusations that ministers have abandoned tenants in favour of “pro-landlord Conservative MPs”.

In February, Michael Gove told the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg the practice would be outlawed by the next election, helping to protect 11 million tenants from being evicted for no reason.

However, this week he said he hoped the bill would become law before the general election but that it was up to the House of Lords “to decide the rate of progress that we can make”.

Mr 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.

The Conservatives first promised to end landlords' ability to evict tenants without needing a reason in 2019, publishing the Renters’ (Reform) Bill on Wednesday May 17, 2023 in Parliament.

Twenty charities and campaign groups that form the Renters Reform Coalition (RRC) said several rounds of “damaging concessions” have “fundamentally weakened” a Bill that will maintain a “central power imbalance” in favour of landlords.

Labour said the no-fault eviction ban promised by the Tories is “collapsing under the weight of vested interests” and called for the plan to be implemented immediately.

However, some Conservative MPs have said the reforms would create too much of a burden on landlords.

Recent research by YouGov commissioned by homelessness charity Shelter showed 943,000 tenants had been served Section 21 notices since April 2019, which is equivalent to more than 500 people a day.

Nearly 85,000 of these households were put at risk of homelessness as a result, the research found.

However, the Government has stated it cannot commit to a time frame for when the ban will be brought into place.

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 tenants 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 to new ones 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 with 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 statistics 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, the number of tenants who received Section 21 notices increased by 49 per cent last year – from 6,339 to 9,457.