Our housing correspondent, BARRATT HOLMES, on how Croydon’s Labour-run council has led the way over ‘no-fault’ and revenge evictions by private landlords
One of the more interesting proposals passed at Monday night’s full council meeting – the first staged in the Town Hall chamber since early July – was a call for the abolition of Section 21, and the legal leeway it offers to private landlords to evict tenants without reason.
Croydon thus became the first council in the country to call for the abolition of Section 21, though as so ably demonstrated by new councillor Niro Sirisena with his somewhat shouty speech, the passing of the proposal was more noise than any actual action by Croydon Council: it will take the Government to repeal Section 21, and that ain’t going to happen as long as Theresa Mayhem remains in No10.
There is, however, growing support for the End Unfair Evictions campaign, formed through a coalition between Generation Rent, the London Renters Union and the New Economics Foundation.
They all advocate the abolition of “no-fault evictions” in England and the introduction of the secure, open-ended tenancies now standard in Scotland.
The Labour motion at the Town Hall meeting, proposed by deputy leader Alison Butler and seconded by “Shouty” Sirisena, was opposed by the Conservative opposition on the council, whose councillors include a number of private landlords. Now that will play out well on the doorstep…
According to Croydon Council, the biggest cause of homelessness in Croydon is evictions in the private rental sector. “It is unacceptable that private landlords are able to evict vulnerable tenants so easily, leaving the public sector to pick up the bill,” Butler told Monday’s meeting.
Section 21 is acknowledged as a leading cause of homelessness, with 216 households per week made homeless nationally through no-fault evictions. Placing homeless families in temporary accommodation costs councils £845million per year across the country.
No-fault evictions also allow landlords to kick out tenants who complain about disrepair or other problems: there have been 141,000 so-called revenge evictions since 2015, with nearly half of tenants who complain being asked to leave their homes.
Campaigners claim the threat of revenge evictions make it difficult for councils to enforce better conditions in privately rented homes, and that legislation designed to prevent revenge evictions is not working.
Croydon’s backing for the campaign comes two weeks after John Healey announced that the Labour Party would abolish Section 21 when in Government. It is not coincidental that Labour’s shadow spokesperson on housing in the House of Commons is Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central.
Other organisations backing the call to end no-fault evictions include Children England, Age UK London and UNISON.
Michael Deas, the coordinator of the London Renters Union, part of the End Unfair Evictions campaign, told the 24Housing website: “We are delighted that Croydon has backed the campaign to end Section 21, during a national homelessness crisis. It cannot be right that landlords are able to kick out their tenants without good reason, causing misery for the people affected and pushing the cost on to taxpayers.
“The government must respond to the growing calls to end no-fault evictions by introducing secure tenancies and requiring landlords who evict blameless tenants to pay compensation. This would discourage evictions and help families forced to move pay the costs associated with finding a new home.”
The council also announced on Monday that it was removing fixed-term social tenancies that are reviewed every five years. In future, anyone who signs a new contract with the council will have an open-ended assured contract without a time limit as long as they meet the usual tenancy conditions.
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