A BBC Panorama documentary that last night examined ‘no-fault’ evictions through the stories of tenants being evicted and a landlord trying to evict a tenant appeared to suggest that the system needed to change.
Although it spoke to parties on both sides of the argument, the documentary called Evicted for No Reason and presented by journalist Richard Bilton concluded by saying: “As a nation, we depend on private landlords.
“They say we need ‘no-fault’ evictions but for millions of tenants, that means no security and no place they can really call home.”
The programme followed the story of three different tenants who were facing eviction, as well as a landlord who as trying to evict a tenant from one of two flats she owns.
One family was served a Section 21 notice because the landlord wanted to put the rent up on their property — which appeared to be in a poor state of repair — by £400 a month and the tenants were unable to afford it.
Bilton followed them as they ended up in a B&B before eventually finding another property to rent that ended up forcing the family’s children to move school.
The move also resulted in tenant Laura McGlashan losing her job, which she claimed was because she spent so much time dealing with the consequences of the eviction.
The family arrived in their new rented home with almost no furniture because they had been unable to collect it from their last property and the landlord had stopped answering their calls.
Asked what she thought about Section 21, McGlashan said: “Section 21, I don’t think it has any value.
“I would like to see at least a viable, valid reason for the eviction that has to stand up in court.”
Another woman, Julie Archer, was served with a Section 21 notice on a property in Worcestershire that she had lived in for four years because she repeatedly made complaints about a leaking shower.
She was offered a new lease but didn’t sign it and was given an eviction notice.
The landlord claimed they had undertaken repairs but was fed up with her “trivial complaints”.
A third tenant, Ava Watt, works for a local council ended up living in council accommodation in a converted office block on an industrial estate in Croydon because she had nowhere else to go.
Meanwhile, landlord Frances Carpenter was shown trying to evict a tenant who had installed satellite TV in her flat and changed utility meters without permission.
The tenant had also paid rent late and asked to pay in installments, although it was reported that he had always paid eventually.
Evicted twice before by other landlords, the tenant asked the court to delay his eviction because he and his daughter had nowhere to go.
Carpenter, who had so far spent £1,000 trying to remove the tenant, with the prospect of more expense to come, described the process as “worrying, infuriating and extremely stressful”.
Asked if she thought she was being brutal for using a Section 21 notice, she replied that she thought the tenant had been brutal by making alterations to her property.
She said: “Tenants have all sorts of laws and things protecting them. What about the landlord?”
Bilton also spoke to Paul Shamplina from Landlord Action, who defended landlords’ use of Section 21 notices.
Shamplina said: “You have got to realise that 98% of tenancies go through swimmingly.
“Most landlords will never have to serve a notice and never have to evict a tenant in their lifetime of being a landlord.
“But when it happens it can be distressing.”
However, he also conceded: “I think it can be brutal and I really do feel for tenants that that does happen to.”
The programme also spoke to Landlord Action’s senior solicitor, Emma Philips who described Section 21 notices as “crucial”.
She said: “A Section 21 notice is very important because it means that landlords and tenants can draw a tenancy to an end and nobody is at fault and everybody knows where they stand.
“I think the rules and regulations currently are mostly in favour of the tenant.”
Meanwhile, Bilton went to Scotland to examine changes made to the law there two months ago that mean Scottish renters get tenancies “for life” provided they abide by certain conditions.
It painted a largely positive picture of the changes.
Bilton said: “There are worries about red tape but the new rules offer something for landlords too.”
He then went on to speak to a meeting of Scottish landlords who told him that under certain circumstances it was easier to get tenants out, without going to court, if they didn’t pay rent.
One landlord told him the changes “force people to become professional”.
The programme also briefly set out the views of the two major political parties, with Labour calling for an end to ‘no fault’ evictions everywhere, while the Government defended their use and said they give more protection to tenants and reduce barriers that block landlords offering longer tenancies.
You can view the full programme on iPlayer here.