Citizens Advice Cornwall Warns Eviction Ban “Papering Over The Cracks”

In the first two months of this year, the Citizens Advice Cornwall saw a 77% increase in people seeking one-to-one advice on issues relating to the private rented sector compared to the same period in 2020, outstripping the national rise of 40%.

New research by Citizens Advice shows that across the country, the charity is now helping one person every minute with problems relating to renting from a private landlord.

A year ago, the government announced a ban on most eviction proceedings. That ban was extended several times and is in place until 31 May. However, its conditions have been altered so tenants with more than six months rent outstanding can now be served with an eviction notice. This includes people who have built up arrears during the pandemic.

Polling by Citizens Advice, through its national Tenants’ Voice panel, shows private renters are still concerned by the threat of eviction despite the ban. A third said they had been worried about the issue in the last three months.

Figures from the charity’s national website show in the first two months of the year 69,000 people viewed its advice pages dealing with problems related to private tenancies.

In Cornwall, we saw 69 people in the same timeframe:
· 26% had problems with repairs or maintenance
· 14% were worried about possession action not related to rent arrears
· 9% reported harassment by their landlord
· 7% wanted help with a possible illegal eviction.

The Tenants’ Voice panel also found two thirds of those surveyed had experienced problems with maintenance or disrepair in the last three months.

Opportunity for change:

Citizens Advice Cornwall says the forthcoming Renters’ Reform Bill is an opportunity to lay the foundations of a more equitable private rented sector. The charity wants:
· An end to Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions – as promised by the government in 2019
· Indefinite tenancies used as standard, to give renters more certainty and flexibility, and reduce their exposure to annual rent increases.
· A new National Housing Body and register to set consistent standards, give tenants greater protection, and help responsible landlords

Citizens Advice Cornwall Chief Executive, Gill Pipkin, said:

“The government’s eviction ban helped private tenants feel more secure during the pandemic. But it’s been a case of papering over the cracks.

“Our research paints a disturbing picture of a private rental market in which tenants pay high rents on badly maintained properties, while living in constant fear that any complaint could result in summary eviction.

“The Renters’ Reform Bill is an opportunity to lay better foundations for a more equitable private rental market which provides better quality housing and helps tenants feel more settled in their homes.”

The Citizens Advice national report in January New Year Same Arrears showed:
· Half a million private renters in the UK are behind on their rent. The average amount owed is more than £700, with an estimated £360 million owed across the UK
· More than half (58%) of those behind on rent had no rent arrears in February 2020.
· For people already struggling with rent before the pandemic, 40% reported their arrears have got worse.
In the report Getting the House in Order, research showed tenants who do complain about disrepair or maintenance issues have a 46% chance of being issued with a section 21 eviction notice within six months of doing so.

Notes to editors:
1 – The Citizens Advice Tenants Voice panel is made up of 700 private renters from across England. The project is funded by the Nationwide Foundation. The panel has been exploring tenants’ experiences of renting during coronavirus, through quarterly surveys and interviews.
2 – One renter every minute calculation: In January and February 2021 we saw 16,530 clients for one-to-one advice about PRS issues. Over 40 working days in that time period this works out to be 1 client with a PRS issue every 1 min and 10 seconds.