Section 21 Evictions

Part of Select Committee on Education – in Westminster Hall at 3:40 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Westminster North 3:40 pm, 6th December 2018

I will not detain hon. Members long. I am very grateful to the hon. Members who came along this afternoon. A number of others indicated that they wanted to come, but are unfortunately queuing in the Brexit debate. There is genuine strength of feeling in Parliament about the need for change. We heard powerful contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for Easington (Grahame Morris), for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), for West Ham (Lyn Brown) and for Blaydon (Liz Twist) and Wera Hobhouse. I was particularly touched by the contribution of Alex Chalk, because in all my years in Parliament, the number of times that anybody has said that they have changed their mind during a debate can be counted on the fingers of one hand, so that is something I will cherish.

I am grateful to the Minister for her usual courtesy, but I was disappointed by her response. I appreciate that Governments always say no until they say yes, but I hope that, beneath the surface, there is more thinking going on about this issue. Although she is absolutely right that the issuing of no-fault evictions is subject to a number of conditions, I do not think it is reasonable to say that they in any way undermine the application of section 21 to the private rental sector. It is a structural source of insecurity in a growing sector, which is increasingly home to families and others who are looking for security.

The Minister quoted the English Housing Survey, which said that just 10% of tenants said that their landlords had required them to move, but the sector is now home to 4.7 million people, and there is a danger that we look at a low percentage and confuse it with a low number of people who are affected. Actually, a huge number of people are living under the shadow of insecurity. Homelessness is expensive, traumatic and a huge challenge for local authorities, but it is only the tip of the insecurity iceberg. It has been very well documented by the National Audit Office and many others, and there is a solid body of evidence supporting the need to tackle no-fault evictions in order to help us tackle homelessness, particularly in areas of high housing pressure such as London—but that is not the only reason to do so. There is a much wider problem of insecurity. We have heard the case studies. We know from what Generation Rent and other housing charities are telling us, and from other supporting evidence about the impact of high population churn and mobility, which is overwhelmingly concentrated in the private rented sector, that this is a real and growing problem.

The Minister mentioned the cases that come to court. We know that the cases involving section 21 notices that come to court are only a small proportion of the total. People are living under that shadow and they do not like it, particularly when they are trying to achieve stability in their employment, community and family.

I hope that the discouraging tone that we have heard this afternoon about section 21 is not the end of the story. We are 30 years on from the introduction of a legislative framework that is simply no longer fit for purpose. There is no reason to fear, and no reason for landlords to fear, a change in the law, provided it is set in the proper context of meeting their reasonable needs to secure their property in the case of bad tenant behaviour or return to their home if they wish. Those things are entirely possible within the legislative framework. We will have to see how it works in Scotland. Other countries in continental Europe, such as Germany, have this model and do not have a problem. We do not have to live in a deregulatory housing environment.

This issue is not going to go away. I was encouraged to hear my hon. Friend Melanie Onn reaffirm that the Labour party would take action to end section 21, but I think that should be consensual if possible. We should be able to build a consensus for change. I hope the Minister will go back to the Department and seek to bring about a change. It is time for a fair deal for Britain’s private renters. That is not the only thing we need to do. We need to tackle the issue of welfare reforms and build social housing, but this is a critical tool in the arsenal of attempting to build a fairer and more decent society for the private rented sector. This is an issue to which I know we will return.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered the use of Section 21 evictions in the private rented sector.

Sitting adjourned.