Activists occupy Department of Communities and Local Government in protest at evictions

Housing campaigners from London Renters today occupied the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in protest at evictions and insecurity of tenure. The campaigners bedded down in sleeping bags in the department’s lobby to highlight how being evicted by a private landlord has become the leading cause of homelessness. [1]

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The protest follows reports of a workshop held by DCLG about ways of making it easier for landlords to evict tenants. [2] The campaigners want secure tenancies for all tenants, and in particular an end to ‘no fault’ evictions. [3]

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Members of the groups behind the protest have themselves been evicted for asking for repairs to be done or joining a local tenants’ campaign. Recent research by Shelter found that 1 in 33 renters had been a victim of retaliatory eviction, and a one in eight were so fearful of it that they did not ask for repairs to be done.[4]

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Emma Bradshaw, one of the activists, said: “It is already easier to evict a tenant in the UK than it is in any other European country and it is disgraceful that the government are thinking about making it even easier.Landlords ending private tenancies are now the main cause of homelessness and the number of evictions has been soaring since 2010 [5]. Instead of making it easier for landlords to evict tenants, we need secure tenancies to reduce homelessness and allow people to build lives in their communities without fear.”

As part of a consultation on property conditions in the private rented sector, there has been a proposal to prevent landlords evicting tenants where they have complained about serious disrepairs. [6] However, this would still leave tenants at risk of eviction for things like being involved in private tenants groups or questioning a rent increase. There is also no guarantee that this proposal will be implemented.

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Raymond Ambler from London Renters said: “While we would welcome restrictions on the ability of landlords to issue section 21 possession notices where a property is in disrepair or needs improvements, we consider that alone this is not adequate to address the wider problem of insecurity of tenure in the private rented sector. For example, tenants also fear evictions for joining or being seen to be involved in private tenants groups or other housing campaigns, questioning rent increases or asking permission to make changes to their home or living arrangements like hanging pictures or keeping a pet. We consider that section 21 should be removed entirely, and private tenants should have the same rights and security as social tenants with secure tenancies.

“In the case of preventing retaliatory eviction in response to a tenant’s request for repairs, we consider that the restriction on the use of section 21 possession notices should cover any complaint about property conditions, not just where serious disrepair or the need for major improvements is found.”

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For more information, interviews and images, contact letdown.action@gmail.com

Notes to editors

  1. The end of an assured shorthold tenancy (AST – the standard private tenancy) was the single greatest cause of homelessness in 2013, accounting for one in four cases, up from one in nine cases in 2009.Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/homelessness-statistics
  2. Source: http://blogs.channel4.com/cathy-newman-blog/government-plans-evictions-easier-leaves-tenants-fearful/489
  3. Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 enables landlords to evict tenants without any reason with two months notice after the initial term of an assured shorthold tenancy. For more information, see http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/eviction/eviction_of_private_tenants/eviction_of_assured_shorthold_tenants
  4. Source: http://england.shelter.org.uk/professional_resources/policy_and_research/policy_library/policy_library_folder/report_cant_complain
  5. Source: http://www.crisis.org.uk/news.php/495/private-tenants-see-eviction-orders-soar
  6. See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-property-conditions-in-the-private-rented-sector