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'The biggest cause of homelessness in Redbridge': Council calls on government to abolish Section 21 evictions

PUBLISHED: 12:36 26 March 2019

Council housing. Photo: Ben Birchall

Council housing. Photo: Ben Birchall

PA Archive/PA Images

Redbridge Council's Labour administration is calling on the government abolish legislation that allows tenants to be evicted for no reason.

But the council’s Conservative opposition argue that Section 21 eviction notices offer landlords necessary flexibility to reclaim their properties.

They instead call for the council to consult landlords on why so many evictions are taking place.

The debate at last Thursday’s full council meeting, in Redbridge Town Hall, came as figures from campaign group Generation Rent suggest that the local authority may not be using its full powers to protect tenants from revenge evictions.

Councillor Farah Hussain, cabinet member for housing and homelessness, tabled the motion proposing that chief executive Andy Donald write to housing secretary James Brokenshire.

“Section 21 evictions are now the single biggest cause of homelessness in Redbridge,” she told the chamber.

“This is why we have 2,300 people in temporary accommodation.”

She said that the motion was “not about punishing landlords”.

“Abolishing Section 21 would help to make renting more secure, improve standards and increase tenant confidence.”

But Cllr Anita Boateng (Con, Bridge) argued landlords need the flexibility offered by Section 21.

She said: “Most landlords are not setting out to act unlawfully.

“If they have a good tenant the last thing they want to do is evict.”

“Landlords also need to know that they have the flexibility to get their property back if their circumstances change.”

She said that the only alternative legislation by which landlords can reclaim their properties - Section 58 - required them to go through the courts, which can take many months.

“Rather than writing a letter we should take action.

“Has the Labour leadership consulted with landlords to find out why they are evicting residents?”

She highlighted that the government has already held a consultation on Section 21 with more than 8,000 responses, the results of which are yet to be released.

The vote came as figures reveal that only one in 28 tenants who complain to Redbridge Council about bad housing conditions get protection against revenge evictions.

Housing campaign group Generation Rent has warned that councils are failing to use their full powers to protect renters from revenge evictions.

Councils are able to stall these types of evictions for six months by issuing landlords “improvement notices” in cases where tenants have complained of substandard living conditions.

But data obtained in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by campaign group Generation Rent shows that the borough only issued improvement notices for four per cent of complaints received April 2017 and March 2018.

Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, said tenants living in squalid conditions are being let down by councils.

He said: “If landlords are free to evict tenants who complain about disrepair, then we cannot expect the quality of private rented homes to improve.”

Improvement notices are designed to stop so-called revenge evictions, which is where landlords kick out tenants in response to complaints about living conditions.

An improvement notice legally requires landlords to make safety repairs to their property, and if they don’t they can be fined or prosecuted.

Councils normally only issue one if there is a severe hazard, such as mould or broken stairs.

He added: “Tenants have a right to a safe home, but can only exercise it if the government stops landlords from evicting tenants without needing a reason.”

In total, 99 councils responded to Generation Rent’s FoI request about landlord complaints.

Overall, only one in 20 tenants who complained received protection against revenge evictions.

A Redbridge Council spokeswoman said: “We are serious and determined about improving standards in the private rented sector.

“As a first step, we will always engage with the landlords to get problems resolved but if they don’t do that and sort the issues we won’t hesitate to hit them hard with enforcement action.

“As part of our extensive support for tenants, we offer a free advice for those threatened with homelessness, including checking the validity of notices issued by landlords and protection against retaliatory eviction.

“We also run tenants’ and landlord forums so that both groups are kept up to speed on the latest laws and regulations.”

The Labour administration’s motion was voted through unamended with 45 in favour and 12 against.

Eight councillors stood up when asked to declare an interest as to whether they are landlords for properties in the borough.

These included council leader Jas Athwal, deputy leader Cllr Kam Rai, Cllr Kay Flint, Cllr Martin Sachs, Cllr Yakub Kothia, Cllr Shamshia Ali, Cllr Muhammed Javed, Cllr Brewer, Cllr Mushtaq Ahmed and Cllr Robin Turbefield.

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