Landlords quitting and not rising rents is reason for homelessness

Steve Lumley·8 June 2022·5 min read
Landlords quitting and not rising rents is reason for homelessness

Official figures show that homelessness in the UK is not caused by rising rents but by landlords quitting the private rented sector.

The data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities shows that between October and December last year, households that were threatened with homelessness rose by 7.13%.

The total figure for households who were facing homelessness was 31,090, of which 5,260 had been served with a section 21 notice - that’s a rise of 168% from the year before.

It’s also much more than the October to December 2019 figure of 3,830 before the Covid-19 lockdown.

Why households need to be rehoused

And when the government data is analysed to show why households need to be rehoused because their tenancy has ended, the biggest reason for the rise is revealed to be landlords wanting to either re-let or sell their property.

According to the figures, last year saw the number of landlords leaving the PRS rocketing by 146% when compared to 2020, and it is up by 19% in the same period in 2019.

Researchers found that a tenancy is 40 times less likely to be ended because the renter cannot afford to pay their rent.

Propertymark’s head of policy, Timothy Douglas, said the data highlights the biggest threat facing the rental sector is down to having few incentives for a landlord to keep their rental properties in the market.

‘Questions the validity of rent control calls’

He said: “It also questions the validity of rent control calls because rent rises are not, clearly, the major cause of homelessness.

“More challenges will come with the renters’ reform agenda that looks to pave the way for removing section 21.”

He added: “The government must study the figures and ensure that sector reform is balanced and have policies for maintaining investment and encouraging more.”

Simon Thompson, the managing director of Accommodation for Students, said: “There’s no doubt that the rent reforms being planned for the rental sector will be controversial, but it is important for people to understand why homelessness is rising - and it appears that it’s not rising rents but fed-up landlords leaving the sector.

“A lot of the debate over the future of the private rented sector never appears to take into account the investment, time and trouble that landlords make to deliver a safe and comfortable home for tenants, and that most tenants are happy with their rented homes.”

Housing charity Shelter slammed by landlords and agents

Meanwhile, a call made by the homeless housing charity Shelter for section 21 eviction notices to be banned has led to criticism from landlords and agents.

Among them is the chief executive of Propertymark, Nathan Emerson, who hit back at claims that the private rental sector is ‘broken’.

The move follows Shelter’s claim that a section 21 eviction notice has been handed out every seven minutes to tenants over the last three years.

However, official data shows that section 21 evictions have, overall, been declining.

Now Mr Emerson says that the ‘relentless campaign’ by Shelter is not representative of the country’s private rented sector.

‘Renters were aware of receiving a section 21’

He said: “They say that 2% of renters were aware of receiving a section 21 over the last three years, meaning that 98% of renters had not.

“Research shows that most tenancies, in reality, are ended by the tenant.”

He pointed out that with landlords facing anti-social behaviour, mounting arrears and refusal to give access to their property and property damage means that a section 21 is usually the most effective and quickest way to resolve a situation.

Mr Emerson added: “With a landlord facing £20,000 of arrears and not using a section 21 means they will need to pay court fees to seek possession.”

Erode the fair rights of a property owner

He says that a tenancy is a contract between two parties, and it must serve to protect both landlord and tenant, but anyone seeking to erode the fair rights of a property owner will be ‘doing nothing to support a tenant’.

The National Residential Landlords’ Association (NRLA) has also stepped in to accuse Shelter of adopting a ‘disappointingly one-sided’ and ‘anti-landlord’ position.

The organisation’s chief executive, Ben Beadle, has now written to the charity highlighting that official figures reveal that only a small minority of cases will see a tenancy being ended by a letting agent or landlord.

He added that landlords would prefer to sustain a tenancy and keep their tenant in their home rather than evicting them.

He also criticised the organisation for failing to point out that possession case numbers being brought to court are falling - they fell by 56% between 2019 and 2021.