Ending No-Fault Evictions in England

New Orleans    ACORN has been in the headlines in the United Kingdom recently heralding the end of something called Section 21.  It’s worth understanding fully, because this is a huge win for tenants and spells the end for so-called “no-fault” evictions which were poison for private renters and candy for the landlords.

As the The Guardian explains:

“The government will consult on abolishing section 21 evictions in England, meaning private landlords would no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason.  Currently landlords have the right to get rid of tenants with as little as eight weeks notice after a fixed-term contract has ended. The government said that section 21, which is notoriously hard to challenge, had become one of the leading causes of family homelessness.

Prime Minister Theresa May took a break from the Brexit disaster to announce the consultation as she tried to respond to the housing crisis for tenants in the country and shore up her declining support and seeming disinterest in domestic affairs.

The change was the result of a lengthy campaign across the country.  In the final stages, ACORN was part of the End Unfair Evictions Coalition that also included our long time allies Generation Rent and the New Economics Foundation along with the London Tenants Union.  A petition of 50,000 and the support of numerous local governments was key.  ACORN “said the change should not be seen as ‘a gift from a benevolent government’ but the result of a long-fought campaign by organised tenants.”

More than four million households or eleven million people are now renters.  Shelter, although not part of the campaign, noted that “one in five of families who rent privately have moved at least three times in the last five years, and one in 10 say that a private landlord or letting agent has thrown their belongings out and changed the locks.”  Citizen Advice, another nonprofit not involved in the campaign, “suggested that tenants who made a formal complaint about their landlord or the state of their rented home had a 46% chance of being issued with a section 21 eviction notice in the following six months.”

Next step for ACORN is pushing the consultations to a quick conclusion.  The organization is beefing up its ability to handle section 8 evictions when they come with a recently added “defense coordinator” in the main Bristol headquarters.

As The Guardian tried to forecast the future,

Under the proposals, landlords seeking to evict tenants would have to use the section 8 process, which can be implemented when a tenant has fallen into rent arrears, has been involved in criminal or antisocial behaviour or has broken terms of the rent agreement, such as damaging the property.  Ministers have said they will amend the section eight process to allow it to be used by landlords if they want to sell the property or move back in themselves. Unlike section 21, tenants can challenge section eight evictions in court.

This victory doesn’t end the war, just changes the battleground for ACORN, so that at least we will be fighting on more even ground for tenants.

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Blocking Renovictions: A New Anti-Gentrification Tool

ACORN Canada rally in Burnaby

Frankfurt      New West, a low-and-moderate income family suburb abutting Vancouver, British Columbia, is becoming ground zero for new policies to prevent gentrification and displacement in Canada, and perhaps globally with the passage of its latest city bylaw.  With housing prices averaging over $1 million in Vancouver every city and town within commuting distance is a battleground between developers, landlords, and tenants trying to stay in their homes and close to work and families.

Not surprisingly, New West is also an ACORN redoubt and the longtime location of ACORN Canada’s office in British Columbia.  Several years ago, ACORN, working with the city council had won the first living wage ordinance in Canada.  Indexed to inflation, the hourly wage there is helping sustain working families and is still the standard nationally even as other cities like Toronto have followed suit.

New West, Burnaby, and other Vancouver suburbs has been free-fire zones for what are known as “demovictions.”  In those cases, long term tenants are being evicted when smaller units are demolished and new higher rise apartment and/or condo complexes replace previously affordable housing alternatives for our families.  As families are priced out of Vancouver, the fight with developers over their strategies has been intense.

The New West council, led by longtime ACORN ally, Jamie McEvoy, passed with our support a measure that penalizes “renovictions.”  Renovictions are the process of evicting tenants by jacking up rents past affordability for renovations, rather than demolitions.  The new bylaw would fine landlords $1000 per day if they either evict someone without proper notice or do not give them the right to return to their apartment at the same rent level as they paid before the renovation.  Additionally, New West would vacate the landlord’s license to rent in the city as well, if they are using renovictions to cast off tenants.  This action in New West would be a powerful tool to prevent displacement with real teeth.

Landlords and their friends are obviously crying like stuck pigs and claiming this will mean that landlords will lose any incentive to improve their apartments.  Many of these renovations are simply long overdue upgrades that tenants have also demanded and what would normally be expected would be a landlord’s responsibility to provide habitable units in return for the rent being paid, making renovictions and minor improvements simply a guise for huge rent increases.

Obviously, the fight is not over to maintain affordability and decent standards in New West, and we have certainly not heard the last from developers and landlords.  In the meantime, ACORN Canada is going into hyperdrive to get information about this new tool on the agenda for city councils in Ottawa, Toronto, and other communities where displacement and gentrification are going full stream.

Go ye and do likewise!

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Please enjoy  Extra-Ordinary by Lost Leaders.  Thanks to KABF.

 

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