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What are no-fault evictions and why is the government banning them?

Following the government's pledge, Yahoo News UK explains what no-fault evictions are, why the government is banning them and why this ban has been delayed.

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, speaks outside BBC Broadcasting House in London, after appearing on the BBC One current affairs programme, Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg. Picture date: Sunday February 11, 2024. (Photo by Lucy North/PA Images via Getty Images)
Michael Gove has promised no-fault evictions will be banned before the next general election. (PAs

Housing secretary Michael Gove has guaranteed no-fault evictions will be banned before the general election later this year.

The government first vowed to end these section 21 evictions - where a tenant can be evicted without reason - in 2019.

However, the long-awaited rental reforms are still to be passed and new figures last week showed a 49% rise in repossessions after no-fault eviction orders in England.

Following Gove's pledge, Yahoo News UK explains what no-fault evictions are, why the government is banning them and why this ban has been delayed.

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What are no-fault evictions?

Section 21 evictions, also known as no-fault evictions, mean a tenant can be evicted by a landlord without reason.

They must give tenants at least two months’ notice, though some may get longer. For example, someone whose rent is due every three months must get three months’ notice.

However, housing and homelessness charity Shelter points out the tenancy continues until the tenant leaves or is evicted by court bailiffs. "It's likely to take at least six months from getting a section 21 to being evicted," it says.

It adds: “Your landlord must follow rules to use a section 21. For example, they have to use the right form, protect your deposit and give you a gas safety certificate.”

Why are no-fault evictions controversial?

Matt Downie, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, summed it up in November last year when he said: “No-fault evictions are the leading cause of homelessness in England and renters are battling increasing pressures from soaring rents and the cost-of-living crisis.

“We urgently need the ban on these brought in, otherwise more and more people will be forced unnecessarily into homelessness.”

These evictions are impacting thousands of people.

A Shelter analysis of Ministry of Justice figures last week found 26,311 households in England have been removed from properties by court bailiffs as a result of section 21 since 2019, when the government pledged to scrap it.

In 2023 alone, 9,457 households were removed by bailiffs, up 49% from 6,339 households in 2022.

Meanwhile, a further 30,230 landlords in England started section 21 proceedings last year, a 28% rise from 2022.

Watch: Michael Gove says no-fault evictions will be banned by general election

What has the government done about this?

Nothing.

In 2019, the Conservatives were elected on a manifesto which pledged a "better deal for renters including abolishing ‘no fault’ evictions".

The party said this was part of creating a "fairer rental market: if you’re a tenant, you will be protected from revenge evictions and rogue landlords".

In the 2022 Queen's Speech, the government first announced the Renters Reform Bill which included the abolition of no-fault evictions.

Two years on, however, the long-awaited reforms have not been passed, with the bill still in Parliament.

Last year, the government also said the abolition would not come in until reforms in the court system to ensure it is also a fair process for landlords.

This led to accusations ministers were deprioritising the issue, while charities and campaigners have demanded urgency on fulfilment of the pledge to ban section 21 no-fault evictions.

Activists from Shelter staging a protest in Parliament Square last year to highlight the number of people served with a section 21 eviction notice each day. (PA)
Activists from Shelter staging a protest in Parliament Square last year to highlight the number of people served with a section 21 eviction notice each day. (PA)

So what's happening now with the legislation?

Gove's appearance and direct pledge on the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme will likely have injected some urgency with the Renters Reform Bill that campaigners have been calling for.

He promised: "We will have outlawed it [by the next election] and we will put the money into the courts in order to ensure that they can enforce it."

The cabinet minister said it is important to deal with the “abuse” of no-fault evictions, saying: "There are a small minority of unscrupulous landlords who use the threat of eviction either to jack up rents or to silence people who are complaining about the quality of their homes."

The Renters Reform Bill is currently at the report stage in the House of Commons, the fourth of 11 hoops a bill needs to go through to become law. However, the government has yet to set a date for this stage.

Meanwhile, Gove's pledge was met with scepticism. Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said his words "will ring hollow for those who have waited for so long for this urgently needed reform".

And Tom Darling, campaign manager of the Renters’ Reform Coalition, said: “Saying you’ll do something that was in your manifesto shouldn’t really be breaking news, but it’s a sign of how much the government have dragged their feet on this that it is."