Flaws in Renters Reform Bill risk ‘no fault’ evictions continuing via backdoor, says Citizens Advice
Citizens Advice helped more people with Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction issues in May 2023, than any previous month on record.
Citizens Advice is warning that banning Section 21 evictions will only improve renters rights if forthcoming legislation prevents backdoor ‘no fault’ evictions from taking place.
The charity helped almost 2,000 people with Section 21 issues in May, the most in a single month on record and a 25% increase since May 2022.
To date, 2023 has been a record year for people coming to Citizens Advice for help after being served a Section 21 notice, with a 9% increase in demand for support in the first five months of this year compared to the same period last year.
The Renters Reform Bill promises to ban Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions but Citizens Advice is raising the alarm that new eviction grounds, along with excessive rent increases, could still be used by landlords to unfairly force tenants out of their homes.
Reforms must level the playing field
New grounds in the Renters Reform Bill will allow landlords to evict tenants just six months into a tenancy if they wish to sell a property or move family in. Citizens Advice’s research found 48% of renters who have experienced an eviction had been told their landlord wanted to sell up. But worryingly, the new rules won’t require landlords to give evidence they have followed through on this once a tenant has left.
Citizens Advice is also warning landlords may use excessive rent increases as a way of forcing tenants out. Last year, 1.8 million households either had their rent increased or were threatened with an increase, with 300,000 renters forced out of their home by a rent increase.
The charity found less than 10% of renters who challenged a rent increase from their landlord were successful, with options for tenants limited and often inaccessible.
Citizens Advice is urging the government to close these loopholes in the Renters Reform Bill to give tenants the promised greater protection and security. It is also calling for the length of time new tenants are protected from ‘no fault’ grounds for eviction to be increased from six months to two years.
And, for steps to be put in place to ensure landlords who claim to need to sell a property can’t rapidly re-let it.
The view from the frontline - a Citizens Advice adviser
Catherine, an adviser at Citizens Advice Taunton, said she had noticed a big increase in calls from people who had been served a Section 21 notice, often after challenging a rent increase.
Catherine said: “People really are just in such desperate situations, that they just don't know what to do. At least they can turn to Citizens Advice to understand their rights and options but sadly often it’s a case of trying to find whatever is out there and waiting until they are evicted.”
‘We can't afford to pay more and we have nowhere to go’ - Amar’s story
Amar, his wife and their two young children have lived in their rented home for more than two years. Earlier this year, they were told their rent would be increasing by almost £400 a month. When the couple challenged this, their landlord issued them with a Section 21 notice.
Amar said: “We can't afford to pay more and we have nowhere to go. I tried to speak to the landlord to explain but they said I have to go through the letting agency. The letting agency said there is nothing they can do, either pay more or move out. They just don't care about people.
“I am very worried as I just do not know what we are going to do and where we will live. My wife is so stressed thinking we are going to be homeless on the street.”
Matthew Upton, Acting Executive Director of Policy and Advocacy at of Citizens Advice, said:
“Our advisers are increasingly hearing from renters who are being forced to uproot their entire lives after receiving a Section 21 notice.
“For too long, renters have lived in precarious situations with few protections while landlords have held all the cards.
“Reforms to the private rental sector are welcome but they’re open to abuse from unscrupulous landlords. The government must ensure reforms are watertight and not include loopholes which allow Section 21 evictions to continue by the backdoor.”
Notes to editors
- Citizens Advice is made up of the national charity Citizens Advice; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
- Our network of charities offers impartial advice online, over the phone, and in person, for free.
- Citizens Advice helped 2.55 million people face to face, over the phone, by email and webchat in 2021-22. And we had 40.6 million visits to our website. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 18,500 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 for Welsh language speakers.