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Victory for renters as government outlaws Section 21 summary evictions

PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 April 2019

Renters getting fair deal with government legislation to outlaw summary evictions. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Renters getting fair deal with government legislation to outlaw summary evictions. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

Renters have won a resounding victory with government plans to outlaw landlords evicting tenants with summary notices without reason.

Renters cross Tower Bridge in protest march to City Hall in 2015 at launch of campaign against summary evictions. Picture: Trade Unions’ Socialist CoalitionRenters cross Tower Bridge in protest march to City Hall in 2015 at launch of campaign against summary evictions. Picture: Trade Unions’ Socialist Coalition

It spells success for Tower Hamlets renters who have been campaigning for five years against evictions at the landlord's whim—sometimes for merely complaining about dangerous conditions.

Landlords will soon be required to provide “concrete evidenced reason already specified in law” for bringing tenancies to an end.

This effectively creates open-ended tenancies, with the government was taking action because evictions were now one of the biggest causes of family homelessness, housing minister James Brokenshire points out.

Mayor John Biggs has welcomed the announcement, but warned more powers were needed to protect private landlords from using unscrupulous rent rises as a 'back door' eviction.

Tower Hamlets renters picketting town hall in 2014 to launch campaign against unfair evictions. Picture: Mike BrookeTower Hamlets renters picketting town hall in 2014 to launch campaign against unfair evictions. Picture: Mike Brooke

“Landlords act as if they have no responsibility towards tenants,” he tells today's East London Advertiser. “They often seem they hold all the cards.

“This needs to change as a home is a right and not just something to be traded, especially for families and those forever being squeezed out of the East End.

“Ending evictions without a proper reason will help rebalance power between landlords and tenants.”

Landlords in the East End who flaunt the rules face a criminal conviction and unlimited fine or financial penalty of up to £30,000, the council points out.

Renters’ protest in 2014 to stop whistle-blower Michael James being evicted after 24 years for complaining about a dangerous roof structure. Picture: Mike BrookeRenters’ protest in 2014 to stop whistle-blower Michael James being evicted after 24 years for complaining about a dangerous roof structure. Picture: Mike Brooke

Campaigners are now calling on the government to bring in rent controls with inflation caps to end insecurity for renting families.

Scrapping summary evictions by law follows tougher landlord licensing that was extended by Tower Hamlets Council on April 1.

Deputy Mayor Sirajul Islam said: “Ending 'no fault' evictions is welcome, but we need the Government to redress the balance between landlords and tenants.

“Those in rented accommodation want the security of knowing they won't be evicted for no reason.”

Landlords under current rules were able to evict 'no fault' tenants with a Section 21 Notice after a fixed-term rental contract ended, without giving a reason.

London Renters Union's Amina Gichinga said: “Section 21 is pernicious legislation that renters will be glad to see the back of.

“The legislation brought in 30 years ago allows landlords to evict tenants at a moment's notice, leaving misery and homelessness in its wake.”

The 'renters' union launched in east London last year now has thousands of members.

“But landlords can still force us out simply by hiking up rents,” Amina warns. “We're not just 'a convenient source of income' for property investors—we are people who need homes to live in.”

So-called 'revenge' evictions were rife when landlords used Section 21 to get rid of tenants complaining about living conditions.

Shelter homeless charity's chief executive Polly Neate said: “This change in the law will slam the brakes on unstable short-term tenancies and give renters security.”

The Residential Landlords Association, representing private property owners, recognised calls for change, but warned that “good landlords needed to have confidence” to invest in new homes.

This meant being able to repossess properties swiftly for legitimate reasons such as rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or wanting to sell up.

A renters group first picketed Tower Hamlets Council in 2014, launching a campaign for charter of rights following an eviction notice served on Michael James to quit his home after 24 years.

The 52-year-old had complained to his private landlord about dangerous masonry at Shadwell's Chapman House block of flats. Part of the roof later collapsed onto a neighbour's top floor flat, so he complained to the town hall—then got his marching orders from his landlord.

The campaign led to the council setting up Landlord Register pilot scheme in 2017 in Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Shoreditch, followed by a Renters' Charter to rail against unfair evictions.

The register was extended to the rest of Tower Hamlets two weeks ago for all private multiple lettings, which are now subject automatic inspections without having to wait for whistle-blowing renters like Michael James to lodge complaints and risk retaliation evictions.

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