Labour calls for new legislation to aid tenants
by Felicity Collier
TOUGH new rent protections have to be set to save more than 132,000 people from the brink of eviction and homelessness, Labour said yesterday after new statistics showed the housing crisis is getting worse.
Shadow housing minister John Healey called for emergency legislation after Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures showed that 15 private-sector tenants per hour were close to losing their homes in England last year.
Housing charity Shelter said the figures were “shocking, but only the tip of the iceberg.”
The MoJ report found that 53,201 households were in danger of being evicted from privately rented housing in 2016, amounting to 132,000 people.
A total of 21,596 private renting households in England were evicted through official proceedings last year.
But Shelter revealed that large numbers of people were also forced to leave a property without going through the courts.
“Accelerated possession” is used because it is quicker than a normal eviction and around 66 per cent of landlords have removed tenants in this way.
The loss of a short-term tenancy is the number one cause of homelessness in the country, according to the most recent figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government from last year.
Speaking about housing evictions on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show, Mr Healey claimed that the Tory government is ignorant of the problem because it “just doesn’t get what it’s like for people.”
He demanded that the government act by enforcing longer minimum tenancies with affordable rates of rent that come with protections and rights.
London experienced 17 out of the 20 highest rates of eviction. The hardest hit borough was Barking and Dagenham.
Shelter interim chief executive Graeme Brown said: “To end this crisis for good, the government must build more affordable homes that people on low incomes can actually afford to live in.”
So-called “revenge eviction” is also an issue. This is when a landlord issues an eviction notice following complaints about conditions in a rented property from a tenant.
Shelter have called for revenge evictions to be made illegal.
Mr Healey said an estimated 200,000 people every year are suffering at the hands of landlords who issue revenge eviction notices.
He told the BBC: “It breaks up families. Your home is where you want to feel safe and warm and it’s the heart of all our lives.
“When people cannot have that sort of basic security and basic standards, then the law’s not working, and we’ve got to do a great deal more.”
A new government housing white paper this week focuses on renters and working towards three-year tenancies, but Shelter warned it will only help a handful of people living in new build-to-rent accommodation and not those renting an existing home.
Mr Brown said: “Instead, we want to see five-year tenancies rolled out for everyone.”
Campaign group the Radical Housing Network said: “We call for immediate rent controls and a moratorium on evictions, with a long-term programme of community-led, fully funded social housing construction to return this basic human right to democratic control.”
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