Section 21: Family 'distraught' at no-fault eviction notice as private rental prices in Wales soar

Report by Mike Griffiths and produced by Katherine Clementine

A family-of-six are "stuck in limbo" after being issued a so-called 'no fault' eviction notice to leave the home they've lived in for nine years.

Robert Lewis has privately rented in Barry with his partner and four children for nearly a decade and they were distraught to be told to find somewhere else to live.

The family were issued a Section 21 notice - which is used by landlords who wish to seek possession back of their property. Currently, Section 21 notices give tenants two months to leave, and this will increase to six months on December 1 with the implementation of the new Renting Homes (Wales) Act.

Robert Lewis was issued a so-called 'no fault' eviction notice. Credit: ITV Wales

But for tenants who have been asked to leave their properties and facing higher rents - many are left in an impossible situation.

"It's been home for the children and for the youngest two - it's all they've ever known - and they're not fussed on change at all", Mr Lewis told ITV Wales.

Robert was given two months' notice - with an order to be out of the property by July 2, as the landlord had decided to sell.

The rental property in Barry has been Robert's family home for nine years. Credit: ITV Wales

He said: "My partner was distraught, having that letter out of the blue was just not ideal really. They gave us just over eight weeks to find another property.

"But the cost of private renting is astronomical compared to what we're paying now."

Previously, Wales saw the greatest annual rise in rental prices outside of London which was up 13.9% to £882 per month.

According to Rightmove, sky-high rent costs are being driven by an ongoing mismatch in demand and supply, with tenant demand up by 6% and the number of available rental properties having fallen by 50% over the past year.

The family are now on a waiting list with Vale of Glamorgan Council for temporary accommodation. They'd already been waiting four years for council housing.

'Rents now double what we've been paying'

Robert said: "There's obviously a waiting list of people who are going through the same issues that we are that need properties.

"I'm working full time, my partner works 24 hours a week, we barely see each other. We see each other in crossing most of the time. I work late nights, she works earlies.

"We've never looked into buying a property because it's just not feasible to be saving money for a deposit, especially with four children growing up. It's just impossible for us really.

"Three-four bedroom houses are few and far between or the prices are in excess of £1,000 a month which is more than double what we've been paying for the past nine years.

"You want to be able to wind down after work in your home, not panicking thinking 'Am I going to have to be out of here next week?'"

The UK already faces a housing shortage as house prices and rents have both increased significantly. Credit: PA

What changes will come in with the Renting Homes (Wales) Act?

The legislation was due to come into force in July, but it was postponed to December 1 2022. Here's some of the main changes the legislation will bring:

  • All landlords being required to provide a written copy of the occupation contract to the tenant (called the ‘contract-holder’ in the legislation). This sets out the rights and responsibilities of both parties.

  • 'No-fault' notice periods increasing from two months to six months. It will no longer be possible to issue a notice in the first six months, meaning all contract-holders will have a minimum 12 months of security at the start of their tenancy.

  • A strengthened duty on landlords, to ensure the property they rent is fit for human habitation including the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and regular electrical safety testing.

  • Addressing the practice of 'retaliatory eviction' (whereby a landlord serves notice on a tenant because they ask for repairs, or complain about poor conditions).

  • The introduction of a consistent approach across sectors to eviction where antisocial behaviour and domestic violence, occurs.

The family have been on the council's list for temporary housing but have now past the deadline for the notice.

Mr Lewis said: "We've followed advice because we've got nowhere to go.

"We've been told to stay put at the moment until the council can do something and we've just followed advice because we've got nowhere to go. We just can't afford private rent at the moment.

"We just feel like we're stuck in limbo waiting and waiting to be told to leave and then having nowhere to go."

Interlet Cardiff, who manage Robert's property, confirmed the landlord is looking to sell the property and did not want to comment.

Wales is experiencing record demand for housing as prices are pushed up.

Why was the Renting Homes (Wales) Act delayed?

The Welsh Government said it is committed to strengthening tenants’ rights and the Renting Homes (Wales) Act does this, adding "we have sought to balance the rights of tenants and landlords".

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “This type of large reform happens very rarely and we want to do all we can to ensure landlords have enough time to make the necessary preparations and get things right for tenants.

“Between providing support from those fleeing Ukraine and dealing with Covid recovery, social landlords are under unprecedented pressure and that is why we took the decision to postpone implementation for a relatively short period.

“We understand this delay will be frustrating for some, but it is important we recognise the scale of the work that is required and that we allow enough time for us to get this right.”