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Private renters need protection from sudden evictions, City Hall told

Labour and Green assembly members call on Mayor to help end 'Section 21' notices

12 July, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Sian Berry

PEOPLE who rent their homes on the private housing market are in desperate need of greater protection from sudden evictions, City Hall has heard.

London Assembly members Sian Berry, the Green councillor in Highgate, and Labour’s Tom Copley, found common ground as they called for Mayor Sadiq Khan to demand the end of “Section 21” evictions, which allow landlords to throw residents out of their homes with just two months’ notice, even if they have been model tenants.

Cllr Berry told an all-member meeting that “no fault” evictions were “so common in London” and meant private tenants lived under the constant threat of being told to pack up and go.

At 44, she said she had reached “quite an advanced age” and was still renting herself – she lives in a flat above a shop in Tufnell Park – but had her own experience of being served a Section 21 at past properties.

“Yes, renters need landlords but we want landlords who want to be and work as landlords and who will respect us,” said Cllr Berry. “I’ve lost count at the number of friends and colleagues who have had a Section 21 eviction, often at the last possible time they would have chosen to move. One of my council candidate colleagues, Kirsten [de Keyser], got a Section 21 and was made to move home a few weeks before election day, counting her out of working in our ward right when it would have made the most difference.”

Cllr Berry is now urging people to join campaign group Generation Rent’s attempts to convince the government to axe Section 21.

Tom Copley

The prospect of change, supporters of the campaign believe, has improved after recent moves to end private letting fees and the introduction of three-year secure tenancies.

But Mr Copley, speaking in favour of a motion proposed by Cllr Berry at last Tuesday’s meeting, warned those longer contracts are “meaningless if your landlord can evict you at two months’ notice”.

He added: “I don’t think it is acceptable to carry on with a situation where a quarter or more of Londoners face such insecurity.”

Mr Copley, a former council candidate in Camden who is now a councillor in Lewisham, suggested that while private renters were once young, single people, the nature of the market had changed where older people and parents were now turning to renting as buying a flat or house became too expensive.

“Families with children in local schools are facing the disruption of having to move at two months’ notice, and having six-month tenancies is unacceptable,” he added.

Critics of the campaign say ending Section 21 notices would be too restrictive for landlords, and some could decide to take properties off the market, thinning the number of homes available to people in London.

Conservative assembly member Andrew Boff said: “Yes, there needs to be reforms. We want to have much longer tenancies, and that’s a debate we have with people like mortgage companies, and estate lettings  agents and all the rest of it.”

He added: “I know this works in that fictional world where market forces don’t occur, but it doesn’t work in the real world, and in the real world this will be a disaster not just for people who are renting at the moment, but people who want homes.”

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