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Housing

Number of households facing ‘no-fault’ evictions rises above pre-pandemic levels for the first time

More than 5,000 households asked councils for help to avoid homelessness after receiving an eviction notice before Christmas.

The number of households in England needing help from councils to tackle homelessness after receiving a no-fault eviction notice rose above pre-pandemic levels for the first time at the end of 2021.

Official statistics show that 5,260 households asked local authorities to step in to prevent them from becoming homeless after receiving an eviction notice – which allows landlords to evict private renters without giving a reason – between October and December last year. That was a rise of more than 160 per cent on the same period in 2020 when an eviction ban was in place.

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But, significantly, the figure is also higher than the 3,830 people who asked for council support in October to December 2021 before Covid hit the UK.

The ending of an assured shorthold tenancy was the leading driver of homelessness over the period, putting 11,380 households at risk.

The figure comes in the same week that housing charity Shelter warned renters had received a no-fault eviction notice – also known as a section 21 eviction – every seven minutes since the government promised to ban them in April 2019. Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said the latest statistics showed how people are being “chewed up and spat out by our broken private renting system”.

Ministers are set to unveil plans to scrap no-fault evictions among other reforms in the upcoming Renters’ Reform bill.

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Rick Henderson, chief executive at Homeless Link, the national membership charity for frontline homelessness organisations in England, said the rise in evictions could just be the beginning as the cost of living crisis threatens to hit household incomes.

“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,” said Henderson.

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“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.”

Alicia Walker, youth homelessness chairty Centrepoint’s head of policy, research and campaigns, said the trend could become a “real crisis”.

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“We’re certainly seeing the impact of the eviction ban ending in calls to our helpline,” she said. “The number of calls we’re receiving from young people facing homelessness because of eviction is probably at its highest ever level.

“When you factor in the likelihood of a lag in evictions as the dust settles from the lifting of the ban along with rents and other costs increasing, it’s a deeply concerning trend that could signal the beginnings of a real crisis.

Overall, 67,480 households were owed council assistance because they were either homeless or under threat of becoming homeless in the last three months of 2021. This was around 400 households less than the previous quarter in 2021 and almost identical to the same period in 2020, despite the end of the £20 universal credit increase in October 2021.

Local authorities prevented homelessness for 31,090 households, up 7 per cent when compared to October to December 2020, while there was a 1.5 per cent increase in households living in temporary accommodation in a year, rising to 96,410 households.

Councils also saw the number of households where homelessness was relieved drop 3.5 per cent to 33,800 households. This was driven by a 9 per cent fall in single households requiring council support after a surge during the pandemic due to the Everyone In scheme that brought rough sleepers indoors.

However, the number of households with children requiring homelessness relief rose steeply on the run up to Christmas 2021. A total of 8,410 families needed support, up 17.6 per cent on the same period in 2020 and almost 4 per cent higher than before the pandemic.

A government 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.”  

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