Section 21: 'Devastated' family given no-fault eviction notice face being priced out of their area

Report by Cost of Living Correspondent Carole Green, produced by Katherine Clementine

A couple who devote their spare time to a local food bank are being forced out of their family home after being issued a ‘no-fault’ eviction notice.

Kathryn and Michael Wakeham have lived in Rumney, Cardiff, for nearly a decade and are heavily involved in their community.

But the couple, along with their children and dogs, could be forced out of the area altogether amid the soaring cost of rent and demand on the property market.

While the clock ticks on the time they have left at the home they love, the pair search every day for a new home - but could be priced out.

The family have lived in their home for nearly a decade. Credit: ITV Wales

Michael told ITV Wales: “This is our home, our sanctuary. I know we don’t own the property but this is everything to us. This is our life, this is everything we look forward to at the end of the day.

“Are we going to be in emergency accommodation, are we actually going to be in a house? We could be in a hostel so we can’t take anything with us - it’s all going to have to go into storage.”

The couple had been paying £630 for their home for nearly 10 years. Their landlord has now opted to sell the property.

Rent costs in Wales have increased by 10% in the last year alone. According to a Rightmove report, rent costs in Wales has increased more than any other area in the UK apart from London.

The couple search for new rental properties daily, but face fierce competition. Credit: ITV Wales

Now, Kathryn and Michael are finding similar sized rental properties on the market for up to £1,200 a month.

Kathryn said: “We look daily but every property that pops up, if it’s reasonably priced, there’s 10-15 people on the list straight away. If it’s not, and we’re talking £1,000 or more, we can’t even get a look in because there just isn’t enough money coming in to even consider it.

“£700-750 is the maximum we could hit before causing us massive financial difficulties. And it’s hard enough as it is now.”

Michael added: “If the housing market wasn’t so in a mess we probably wouldn’t be worrying so much. We did it 10 years ago. We had a choice of properties we could pick from.

"Same thing today, you look on any property website - the prices are ridiculous. Anything in the price range we can afford is gone within 24 hours.”

The couple were originally given six months notice to leave their home. But emergency coronavirus legislation ended on March 24, which ensured tenants were given six months’ notice.

New legislation to permanently enforce a six month notice period was due to be introduced on July 15, but has now been pushed back until December 1.

It means landlords can legally ask tenants to leave with two months’ notice, until the Renting Homes (Wales) Act comes into force at the end of the year.

'Renting is simply not viable anymore for some landlords'

James Douglas Sales and Lettings, who manage the Wakeham’s property, say theirs is, unfortunately, “not an isolated case”.

Sarah Evans, General Manager at the estate agent, said: "The increase in landlord taxation as well as regulations, such as the introduction of Rent Smart Wales and the Renting Homes Act, has meant that renting is simply not viable any longer for some landlords.

“This has resulted in more rental properties being sold and increased rents as landlords try to recover their rising costs. Partly as a result of this reducing stock, we are seeing the highest tenant demand on record due to the lack of supply. Unless the Welsh Government looks to mitigate this in some way this is clearly going to be a continuing trend."

Amid the current cost of living crisis facing many in Wales and across the UK, Kathryn and Michael now face moving home - an added burden on top of rising household costs.

“There’s so many things going on, lack of food, energy prices going up, and then Section 21s being dished out left, right and centre,” Kathryn said.

“It couldn’t get more complicated or difficult for people. And then people can’t source the help. The council is overrun by people asking for properties because of the Section 21s. They’re also overrun with food bank requests or help with their energy bills. I just don’t see a way out, it’s so complicated right now.”

Kathryn says volunteering at her local food bank is helping to take her mind off the stress she’s going through - but can’t take her mind off the thought of losing the family’s beloved pets.

She said: “I feel like we’ve spent a lot of time the last couple of months up in the air, everything’s all over the place. I focus mainly on the charity, it keeps me sane.

"Whereas Mike’s focus is more on trying to keep everything in order, trying to make everything seem like it’s going to be okay. Because it’ll be Christmas time before we know it.

“We might be asked to re-home the dogs. I’d be absolutely devastated by that - both the dogs have been here from puppies, so that’d just be devastating for us and the children.

“We’ve had our moments and it’s affected us emotionally. We’ve rowed because of it and settled again.”

Pets are not allowed in temporary accommodation, so the couple fear losing their beloved dogs if they can't find another property soon. Credit: ITV Wales

Michael, who works as a pest controller, had been studying to become a gas engineer before they were given notice to leave.

“Since we’ve found out we have to move, my study has been up in the air, I can’t concentrate on things.”

The couple are currently liaising with Cardiff Council’s homeless prevention team.

“I don’t think I could ask any more of the council to be honest, they've tried so, so hard,” Kathryn said.

“They are trying but I just think it's such an overwhelming situation for everyone - so many people are doing Section 21s. There doesn't seem to be enough properties to sort the situation.”

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 Welsh Government said it is committed to strengthening tenants’ rights and the Renting Homes Act does this.

A 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. “We understand this delay (in the legislation being implemented) 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.”