My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have a personal understanding of that situation, particularly in Newham, because my mum used to work for Community Links, which suffered huge cuts in 2012, resulting in her redundancy. That was precisely the organisation that provided that kind of detailed advice, support and casework to individuals in my hon. Friend’s constituency.
When landlords can evict tenants indiscriminately, tenants do not feel empowered or that they have sufficient knowledge or support. When they think that they have a very slim chance of winning a legal case where a threat is made with no written evidence, they just think, “What on earth is the point?” and look for somewhere else to live, which can often be far out of the area, particularly in London. If a landlord is seeking to move somebody on because they want to receive a higher rent—we know that is the case due to the demand in the city—it can be impossible for people to find similar accommodation in their locality and local community. Landlords can use the threat of section 21 eviction to pressure tenants into sex, and too often they can carry out the threat of eviction, as there are no clear checks that would allow a tenant to challenge an unfair and punitive eviction.
My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North was absolutely right to talk about the private rented sector as the only housing option available to people, now that the ability to buy is so far out of so many people’s reach. She was also right to talk about how different the private rented sector is from the way that it used to be perceived. We are approaching 5 million people in the private rented sector who will be there for the long term—who will be in that sector, even if not temporary accommodation, for many years. Surely it is right that when circumstances change, we should acknowledge and accept that and say, “Yes, let’s change the policy accordingly—it has to reflect modern times.”
We need a new system of evictions in England, with proper checks and balances to prevent abuse. We know that there are numerous valid reasons why a landlord needs to evict a tenant. None of us wants to do away with a landlord’s right to evict bad tenants, sell their property or move back in, if need be, but it surely cannot be beyond our capabilities to draw up a new system that reflects that while protecting tenants. It is a case only of whether there is the will to do it. Some landlords use section 21 to carry out evictions because the current section 8 process is too slow and complex to evict bad tenants, but we do not need a no-fault eviction process to allow landlords to reclaim their properties legitimately. It is easy to prove that a tenant is in rent arrears or has caused significant damage to a property, easy to prove that you are in the process of selling a rented property, and easy to prove that you have genuinely reclaimed a property for self-use and not to rent commercially to another tenant. So simplifying section 8 and putting in a proper system that means landlords must give a valid reason for eviction—I say again—should not be beyond the means of the Government. If we create a system that provides better checks and balances, there seems to be no reason at all to keep a no-fault eviction clause that causes so much hurt for thousands of tenants around the country.
Before I finish, I want to say that my hon. Friend Grahame Morris deserves a visit from the Government. I hope the Minister will rapidly flick through her diary to find an available date to go and look at how integral security of housing, quality of housing, availability and affordability are to people’s wellbeing and strength in his local community. A visit would be greatly appreciated.
If the Minister recognises that we have to root out bad and exploitative landlords; that we need to try to professionalise the private rented sector; that we want to tackle discrimination of renters and improve communities by ensuring that people feel invested in their properties as homes and not somebody else’s investment; and that the private rented sector is a valued and necessary part of the housing mix in this country while we wait for councils to be able to start building more social homes, hopefully she will agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North has proposed today.