Hannah Slater of Generation Rent explains why a ChildFair State needs secure renting for families

Over a quarter of families with children in England are privately renting, yet almost half of renting families say that they’re worried about losing their current home. The English Housing Survey shows that one in eight families with children who moved house last year did so because the landlord gave them notice – that’s 118,000 families who had an unwanted house move because they had no real security of tenure. Many of these families will have experienced Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction.

That’s why the End Unfair Evictions campaign, led by Generation Rent, is calling for the abolition of Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act. Section 21 empowers landlords to evict tenants without providing any reason for doing so, without providing compensation, and with just 2 months’ notice. These ‘no fault’ evictions are unfair, outdated, and damaging to children and their families. Here’s why:

  • Moving house is expensive. A typical household needs to find £2041 in letting fees, removals, cleaning services, and for a new deposit. Most renters don’t have savings, yet a Section 21 eviction means families must find the money to move, unexpectedly and at short notice. Many will end up in debt. Moving house is a significant additional cost that hard-pressed families don’t need adding to their strained household budgets.
  • Moving house disrupts a child’s education and attainment. After a no fault eviction, many families struggle to find affordable housing in the same neighbourhood and children have to move schools. Research has found that the attainment of pupils who make in-year school moves is markedly lower than their peers, and lower still among pupils who make multiple in-year moves. When Section 21 evictions have a negative impact on school attainment, they damage that child’s life chances.
  • More stress and anxiety for parents. Section 21 means that private renting families have no real security, and a YouGov poll for Shelter found that 43% of renting families were worried about losing their home. Stressed out parents may have less emotional space for their children.
  • Eviction is the most common cause of homelessness. Every week 244 households are evicted by bailiffs following a Section 21 notice. Some will not be able to find a suitable affordable home to move into. Councils have seen a sharp rise in the number of homeless families they are having to place into temporary accommodation. The devastating impact on children of living in B&Bs and temporary accommodation is well documented, as is the vast cost that this imposes on the public purse.
  • No fault evictions discourage reporting disrepair. Poor conditions are more prevalent in privately rented homes than in other housing tenures, and homes filled with damp, mould and hazards can have serious consequences for a child’s health. The laws that protect against revenge eviction following the tenant reporting disrepair to a landlord are inadequate, and this still happens all too often to families. 44% tenants surveyed by Citizens Advice Bureau said that fear of eviction would stop them negotiating with their landlord over disrepair in their home. Fear of a Section 21 eviction means families are trapped in unsafe homes.

Families need real security of tenure that supports their financial resilience, health and wellbeing, and enables them to put roots down in their community. For children, housing security is particularly important for their optimal development.

Maslow tells us that an individual’s basic physical needs for shelter, safety and security must be met in order for that person to enjoy psychological wellbeing by developing relationships and a sense of belonging, and ultimately enabling them to become fulfilled and purposeful individuals.

How can a child feel safe and secure when their family has been forced to move home without being given a reason, or even while their parents are worrying about this threat? How can a child develop a sense of belonging and build healthy friendships if they’re shunted by landlords from one neighbourhood to another? How much harder is it for a child to learn, achieve and find purpose when their education is disrupted?

Children England’s vision of a ChildFair State is one in which children live securely and grow well in their homes and communities. The five pillars of a caring society – home, safety and security, love and belonging, health, and purpose – can all be best achieved when families have stable housing where a child can thrive.

Yet children in families renting privately do not have their rights to home and community met, as do their peers whose parents own their home. These children miss out on the wealth of benefits that secure housing delivers for a child’s development and life chances because we currently privilege a landlord’s right to evict over a family’s right to a home. It’s time to change this. That’s why Children England supports the campaign to End Unfair Evictions and abolish Section 21.

Almost 50,000 people have signed the petition to scrap no fault evictions, and the Government has already recognised that privately renting families need greater security in their consultation on three year tenancies. But without an end to Section 21, renting families will continue to face the trauma and expense of eviction from their homes and communities. The number of children living in privately rented housing has tripled in the last decade and with this number set to rise as generations moving into parenthood remain locked out of home ownership, the call to protect children by abolishing section 21 evictions becomes even more urgent.

You can support the End Unfair Evictions campaign by signing the petition, responding to the Government’s security of tenure consultation using our template response, or contacting Jacob if you’d like to lend your organisation’s support to the campaign.