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Stop the evictions! Camden resolves to campaign against Section 21 notices

Councillors share horror stories of no-fault evictions

09 April, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Luisa Porritt introduces the motion at last night’s meeting

PRIVATE rental tenants are being kicked out of their homes as greedy landlords try to cash in on London’s housing markets, the Town Hall has been told.

Nightmare stories about the difficulties people face navigating the rental market were shared as councillors voted in favour of taking on the government over no-fault evictions.

Labour and the Greens backed a motion brought by Camden’s Liberal Democrat, calling for an end to so-called ‘Section 21’ evictions. This clause in part of 30 year-old housing act and allows landlords to evict their tenants without giving a full reason why.

Critics who want a change to the legislation say the constant possibility of swift eviction means tenants are fearful of raising complaints about repairs and the standard of their homes. And there are reports that some landlords turn over their tenancies on a regular basis in order to re-let flats and houses at a higher rate to new people.

While there was a consensus across three of the parties in the chamber at Monday’s full council meeting, the Tories abstained from the vote, claiming that calling for section 21 to be revoked was beyond Camden’s local remit.

Lib Dem councillor Luisa Porritt said a third of Camden’s population relied on the private rental market, because “the average home in Camden costs more than 18 times the average annual income, and more than 5,700 households in the borough waiting for council home”.

“Section 21 of the 1988 housing act allows private landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason,” said Cllr Porritt. “And as a consequence private rental tenants often feel that they cannot make complaints to their landlords about the poor quality or lack of repairs to their homes. Landlords can use arbitrary and unfair reasons to their tenants. I spoke to someone recently who told me a horror story about a woman who had informed her landlord that she was pregnant, and he moved to evict her the next day.”

She added: “Worst still, due to the high cost of the rental market in London generally, and particularly here in Camden, some landlords use Section 21 as a means to gain higher rental income by evicting their existing tenants and acquiring new ones. This perpetuates the unsustainable nature of the housing market.”

Labour councillor Heather Johnson, who formerly worked for the Camden Federation of Private Tenants, told the meeting that tenants had fought the legislation when it went through parliament but assurances that it would not be used for underhand evictions had been the “thin edge of the wedge.”

She said: “We see it in all our areas, what private tenants have to put up with, and their rights being chipped away because there is no way of standing up for themselves.”

Sian Berry: supports the motion

The ruling Labour group amended the text of the motion to show that they were already campaigning against Section 21 evictions.

Sole Green councillor Sian Berry said: “We need to be educating our residents about ways they can resist Section 21 evictions. It can be resisted when it’s being applied in a way that is illegal and if there is an outstanding complaint, there are reasons why your landlord cannot issue a legal Section 21, and we should be giving more advice to residents.”

Giovanni Spinella said the Conservatives were abstaining

Commenting on why the Tories refused to vote for or against the motion, Conservative deputy leader Councillor Gio Spinella said: “We fully accept tenancy is an important issue, one that is close to us but we think this is one of the motions where it is outside of the council’s remit.”

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