The number of privately renting households at risk of becoming homeless after being served a so-called “no-fault” eviction notice is up by more than a third from before the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
Some 5,260 households were threatened with homelessness after receiving a Section 21 notice in the run-up to Christmas, according to figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
This is up 18.5% from the previous quarter and a rise of 37.3% compared with the same period in 2019.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, measures were introduced to protect tenants in the private rental system from losing their homes.
These included a temporary ban on evictions, which was lifted from May 2021.
A Section 21 no-fault eviction allows landlords to evict a tenant without having to give a reason.
The Government promised to end such notices in 2019, and charities are calling on it to honour its pledge by committing to a Renters’ Reform Bill this spring.
Overall, 33,800 households were assessed as homeless, and 31,090 as threatened with homelessness and owed support between October and December – similar to the same period in 2020.
This includes 8,410 homeless families with children – up 17.6% from the same quarter last year and slightly above the same period in 2019.
Loss of a private tenancy was the main trigger for those at risk of becoming homeless, affecting 11,380 households (36.5% of the total).
This has doubled from the same quarter last year, which the Government said is likely to reflect the removal of restrictions on private rented sector evictions.
For those who were homeless, family and friends no longer being willing or able to accommodate them was the most common reason.
This was followed by domestic abuse, with 5,790 households – up 17.9% from the same quarter last year and by 37.5% from the same period in 2019.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the Government must bring forward a Renters’ Reform Bill and “put Section 21 on the scrapheap where it belongs”.
She said: “These are real people who’ve been chewed up and spat out by our broken private renting system, and now face an uphill battle to find somewhere to call home again.
“Our emergency helpline is inundated with calls from people whose lives have been thrown into chaos by unexpected and unfair evictions.
“If landlords follow the process, as it stands they can turf people out of their homes for no reason – and tenants are powerless to do anything about it.”
Fiona and her two children are facing homelessness in Torquay after being served a Section 21 notice.
The 35-year-old, who works full time, has not been able to find another home and is “panicking every day”.
She said: “I don’t know where to turn. I have been to my council and applied for social housing but I’m not getting anywhere.
“My family are scared and anxious – we are constantly waking up stressed that we have nowhere to live.”
Homeless Link, the national membership charity for frontline homelessness organisations in England, said legislation must urgently address the rise in evictions to give tenants “more security in the turbulent months ahead”.
Chief executive Rick Henderson said: “The huge rise in evictions from the private rented sector is very worrying, especially as the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis are already being felt in households across the country and will likely lead to a further rise in the coming months.
“Local authorities and homeless services will do everything they can to prevent or end people’s homelessness, but a huge shortage of affordable accommodation makes this very difficult.”
A DLUHC spokesperson said: “These figures show the action we’re taking to tackle homelessness is already having an impact – the Homelessness Reduction Act has prevented over 475,000 households from becoming homeless or supported them to settled accommodation since 2018 and we’re building on that success with £316 million funding this year.
“The government is providing a £22 billion package to help households with rising costs and we will bring forward reforms to support renters, including ending Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions.”