The rented sector, evictions and activism

In the face of the COVID-19 lockdown, alongside the various economic support and furlough schemes, Government not only asked landlords to show forbearance in the face of rent arrears but also took urgent time-limited action to avoid mass evictions from the private rented sector and a consequence homelessness catastrophe. In England these measures expire in late June. The Government has proposed a route out of these measures – relying on pre-action protocol – that lacks any real legal teeth. Commentators and activists are arguing that only a more substantial reform – such as abolition of Section 21 and Ground 8 in England and some form of legal mechanisms to limit rent increases (potentially available but not yet used in Scotland) – has a serious chance of preventing mass evictions.

This work is broken down into two strands:

  • A focus on reviewing the short-term measures put in place for the pandemic in the PRS across the UK. It will try to understand better which options were considered before this route was pursued, and to comprehend how the policies have been framed and narrated. It will also seek to develop an understanding of these dimensions of the policy development process for the exit strategy. In both these dimensions of the project, we will try to examine how competing priorities are being balanced and the extent to which decisions are shaped by perceptions of perverse incentives/unintended/undesirable consequences (linking to broader systems issues), and what those perceptions are based upon.
  • Tenant activism at the ground level has already been visible in stopping punctual evictions and putting landlords under pressure for repairs (e.g. via ACORN tenants’ movement, whose Facebook platforms work as means of mobilisation). At a broader level, social movements and activists were arguably shifting the terms of the debate pre-COVID-19 in England (e.g. in relation to the abolition of S21) and contributed to the successful end of no-fault evictions in Scotland. Clearly, policy change elsewhere in the UK already had some momentum. The current crisis could represent a window of opportunity to press for further change and reshape private renting, emphasizing the value of greater stability for tenants. This strand will therefore seek to investigate how activities are conceiving of, and acting in, this moment.

Team: Prof Alex Marsh, Dr Adriana Mihaela Soaita (Lead Co-Investigators) and Dr Chris Foye (Knowledge Exchange)

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This is a part of a wider project being undertaken by CaCHE exploring housing policies and the COVID-19 pandemic.