Renter ‘pushed down a flight of stairs and repeatedly kicked’ as unprotected tenants face brutal pandemic evictions

Video report by ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills

After losing their jobs during the pandemic, Bethan (BJ) Joy Croakin and her housemate could no longer pay the rent.

Just three days after the money was due, the pair say they were physically - and quite brutally - evicted.“Members of the landlord’s family came to physically remove us," BJ told ITV News.

"They were violent with me and my friend who ended up being pushed down a flight of stairs and repeatedly kicked and punched”.

Following the violent encounter, BJ and her friend spent 10 nights sleeping rough under a flyover.Could the law have prevented it?

“I don’t think the law means anything in a situation like that," BJ said. "They wanted us out or they wanted the money.”

The pair are not the only ones living perilously after losing their income.

Esperanza Pavas is in the process of being evicted.

The mother-of-one was recently made redundant by Pret a Manger, but she insists she has always paid the rent on time.

She now faces the prospect of looking for both a new job and a new home.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Esperanza told ITV News.

“(The landlord) just doesn’t care. This is all about business, all about money.”

Her landlord issued a Section 21 notice, meaning Esperanza and her 12-year-old son must leave the home by September 19.

A Section 21 notice allows a landlord to take back their property from a tenant without giving any reason and without any burden of proof.

As long as the three-page form is completed correctly, the court is obliged to grant the landlord a possession order.

“They do whatever they want with me. I feel like I am (my landlord’s) dog," Esperanza said.

There haven’t been any court hearings since March, as a result of the moratorium announced by the government.But that hasn’t stopped landlords issuing Section 21 orders.

The government made a manifesto promise to abolish 'no-fault' evictions, but hasn’t done so yet.

It is not clear how many Section 21 notices have been issued since lockdown began.

Courts in England and Wales will begin hearing eviction cases again on September 21. 

The National Residential Landlords Association estimates nearly one in four of their members is owed money by their tenants, while one in five claim to have lost up to half of their usual rental income as a result of the impact of coronavirus.

Arrears in England are estimated to have reached between £328 million and £437 million as tenants, through no fault of their own, have fallen behind with the rent.

“We’ve seen a worrying increase in criminal landlords forcing tenants, who have either lost their jobs or some of their earnings, out of their homes,” says Roz Spencer, director of Safer Renting.

Roz Spencer from Safer Renting says criminal landlords know how to play the system

“Illegal eviction is now a daily occurrence in our experience. Criminal landlords know the system better than the system knows itself, the penalties for breaching the regulations are nowhere near strong enough.

"Landlords see it as a cost of doing business”. 

The ban on evictions has delayed legal action by landlords, but hasn’t solved the problem of unpaid rent.

The Scottish and Welsh governments are offering interest-free loans to help settle arrears.

There’s pressure on officials to do the same in England, where, as BJ explained, conflict between tenants and landlords is inevitable.

“I’m upset by what happened, it affected me a lot, but it doesn’t surprise me”, she said.“There’s a lot of things that happen and it might make you upset or angry, but they don’t surprise you."