Surge in renters facing homelessness as landlords flee buy-to-let sector

Surge in renters facing homelessness as landlords flee buy-to-let sector

As England faces a burgeoning crisis in its private rental sector (PRS), thousands of renters are teetering on the brink of homelessness due to landlords exiting the market. Recent official figures indicate that more than 2,000 households a month are facing eviction because private landlords are selling their properties. This alarming trend is compounded by a 12% year-on-year increase in the number of children living in temporary accommodation, which has now reached a record high of 145,800.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) highlights several key factors driving landlords to sell up, including high interest rates and the uncertainty caused by delays in implementing rent reforms. According to a recent NRLA survey, almost a third of landlords plan to reduce their rental portfolios, while a mere 9% intend to expand them. Ben Beadle, the NRLA chief executive, emphasizes that "landlords selling up is the single biggest challenge renters face," advocating for measures to ensure responsible landlords have the confidence to remain in the market.

However, the response to this crisis is multifaceted and contentious. The homelessness charity Riverside describes the situation as a "humanitarian crisis unfolding behind closed doors," with more than four in ten families facing eviction having sought temporary housing from local councils. This stark reality underscores the urgent need for systemic changes to protect renters and stabilize the housing market.

Amidst this turmoil, the renters (reform) bill has become a focal point of debate. Recently reintroduced for discussion in the House of Lords, the bill aims to address the myriad issues plaguing the PRS. Campaign group Generation Rent has criticized the NRLA for allegedly using the threat of landlords exiting the market to influence legislative decisions. Ben Twomey, Generation Rent’s chief executive, argues that the sale of rental properties could ultimately benefit the housing market by providing opportunities for new landlords, first-time buyers, or even social housing initiatives. Nonetheless, he acknowledges the pressing short-term issue: the severe lack of protection for tenants when landlords decide to sell.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, echoes these sentiments, pointing to the persistence of no-fault evictions as a significant driver of homelessness. "Rental reforms are not driving homelessness; no-fault evictions are," she asserts. Despite the government’s promise five years ago to ban these evictions, renters continue to be displaced with minimal notice and no justification. Neate calls for an overhaul of the renters reform bill to extend the protected period from eviction after tenants move in and to increase notice periods, providing renters with more time to secure alternative housing.

The unfolding crisis in England's PRS is a complex challenge that demands a balanced approach. Ensuring the stability of the rental market while protecting the rights and well-being of tenants is imperative. As policymakers, landlords, and advocacy groups navigate this intricate landscape, the ultimate goal must be to prevent homelessness and foster a fair, sustainable housing market for all.

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