'We've been treated like criminals': Families left desperate and homeless as no-fault evictions soar

A record number of families are being evicted from their homes through no fault of their own.

Victims of Section 21 eviction claims, ITV News Investigations Correspondent Daniel Hewitt spoke to some of vulnerable families being left with nowhere else to go

The number of no-fault evictions taking place in England has risen to its highest level in seven years, as an ITV News investigation finds families being made homeless with nowhere else to go.

Ministry of Justice data shows the number of Section 21 eviction claims - otherwise known as 'no-fault' evictions as the landlord does not have to state a reason - have jumped by 38%.

Between July and September 2023, 8,399 Section 21 eviction claims were taken to court by landlords, compared to 6,092 in the same period last year.

The number of bailiff repossessions also jumped by 29% to 2,307, the highest since before the pandemic.

Carol has lived in her home for 10 years. Today she waited as bailiffs evicted her, her daughter and two grandchildren. Credit: ITV News

The government has promised to scrap Section 21 evictions since 2019, but Housing Secretary Michael Gove has cast doubt on whether it will happen before the next general election - after promising to reform the court system in England before bringing in a ban.

Increased mortgage rates have seen landlords increase rental prices, or in other cases decide to sell their properties. Landlords also point to changes to the tax system which have made renting out properties less lucrative.

Under reforms to the private rental sector currently going through Parliament, landlords will still be able to evict their tenants if they can prove they wish to sell their property.

The issue for many families is the lack of affordable housing to move to.

An ITV News investigation has seen first-hand the impact on families evicted through Section 21.

In Northampton, Carol, her daughter and two grandchildren have privately rented their home for almost a decade. They have never missed a rent payment and have been good tenants.

They were notified earlier this year that the landlord wanted to sell the property and were given eight weeks to leave. Despite both working, Carol and her daughter couldn't find anywhere affordable to rent, and were told that the local council had no properties for them.

They went to court, but they lost their case. Right now, the law is on the landlords' side.

On the day of their eviction, with the bailiffs waiting outside, Carol told me the family had nowhere to go once they handed back the keys. 

'I wake up some mornings and wish I had died in my sleep,' Carol told ITV News Investigations Correspondent Daniel Hewitt that her life cover would help her loved ones escape homelessness

At 10am, the bailiffs walked through the door. They didn’t even knock – the property was theirs to take.

The moment Carol and her daughter walked out - the home they've lived in for nearly a decade with two little boys aged three and five - the locksmiths moved in. It is a swift and brutal process.

An increasing number of Section 21 evictions are ending up in court, driven in part by a chronic shortage of affordable housing – both in the private sector and in social housing.

ITV News has seen evidence of councils advising tenants who receive a Section 21 to not leave after eight weeks – as stated in the eviction notice – and instead go through the court process all the way through to a court-ordered bailiff repossession.

With the eviction complete, bailiffs immediately set about changing the locks. Credit: ITV News

In Luton, Charlotte, her husband and three sons have privately rented the same home for 10 years, but received a Section 21 notice stating the landlord wanted to sell the house.

Like Carol, they can't find anywhere they can afford on the private rental market, and the council have told them they will only consider them for housing once they have been evicted.

Charlotte's husband works full-time, so they don’t qualify for legal aid, but they also can't afford a solicitor. It means Charlotte has no choice but to represent herself in court.

'I have nowhere to go, I don't know what I'm going to do': Charlotte has been told she has just six weeks to find a new home with her husband and two children, or bailiffs will be sent to evict them

We met her after her case was heard. Like Carol in Northampton, she lost.

The law does not protect tenants against no-fault evictions.

Housing charities insist the government must ban Section 21 before the next election, and say renters are living in fear of eviction.

"It beggars belief that this government is prepared to use cynical tactics to delay the banning of no-fault evictions, while record numbers of renters are being removed from their homes without cause," said Polly Neate of Shelter.

"Renters have waited four long years for the government to come good on scrapping Section 21, to make that now dependent on unspecified court reforms taking place is ludicrous.

"Renters shouldn't have to live for one more day with the fear they can be evicted from their home for no reason, knowing that once that notice lands on their doormat, there is nothing they can do."

A government spokesperson said: "Our landmark Renters Reform Bill offers better protections for tenants and gives them greater security to challenge poor conditions in their homes.

"We are abolishing section 21 'no fault' evictions and the Bill passing through Parliament will see this happen."

If you or someone you know is homeless, facing eviction, or want to get in touch with us about your housing issue, please email us at housingstories@itv.com

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