Insights and Opinions Ben Beadle 06/05/2022

Gimme Shelter: tackling flawed logic head-on

This week, following the publication of new research on Section 21 evictions by Shelter, our Chief Executive Ben Beadle wrote a letter to Shelter's CEO, Polly Neate, to challenge the misleading claims set out in their report. In this blog, Ben explains more.

Many of you, like me, will have been astounded by outlandish claims from Shelter last week, stating PRS tenants are receiving Section 21 repossession notices at a rate of one every seven minutes. 

As landlords we all know the last thing any of us wants to do is evict decent tenants who are paying their rent. Why would we? What sort of business model would that be?  

For all that groups such as Shelter paint a bleak picture of the rental market, it is they who are creating needless anxiety amongst tenants with such claims – stoking fears amongst renters that their landlord is about to knock on their door and ask them to leave for no reason.  

Nothing could be further from the case. 

The publication of the ‘one every seven minutes’ claim gave Shelter exactly what it wanted, blanket coverage across print and broadcast media, with the figure cut and pasted straight from their press release and into the newspapers.

But what of their claim?  

The suggestion that a Section 21 notice – or, as they describe it, ‘no fault’ eviction – is served every seven minutes is not based on the ‘actual’ number of notices served, but on the findings of a survey of just over 1,000 renters in England.  

What Shelter failed to do was to put their findings into context. A private renter being served a Section 21 notice every 7 minutes would amount to around 75,000 over the course of a year. This would represent just 0.7 per cent of the 11 million private renters Shelter itself says live in England. 

These shaky claims are as frustrating as they are unsurprising.

As an organisation we have been vociferous in countering these claims.  

We have spoken in the national media and provided statements for national radio and television – with solid, official Government statistics to back up our arguments. We told them: 

  • The latest English Housing Survey shows 92% of tenancies were ended by the tenants themselves 

  • The number of Section 21 possession cases brought to court fell between 2019 and 2022. And this wasn’t just because of the eviction ban in response to the pandemic. They have been falling since 2015.  

  • There are restrictions on the use of Section 21, and many landlords are forces to use it even when there is ‘fault’ – such as serious arrears or anti-social behaviour – due to the flawed Section 8 process.  

While it would be wrong to deny there are rogue landlords out there it is equally wrong for Shelter to suggest all landlords fall into this category by default.  

The overwhelming majority of landlords want to keep tenants in their homes. We saw this during the pandemic, where time and time again we saw landlords waiving or deferring rent to support tenants who had fallen on hard times.  

Having much common ground when it comes to tackling homelessness and the role the private rented sector can play, I am disappointed Shelter felt the need to launch this attack on the very people providing the homes to rent that this country so desperately needs.  The reality is that tenants need landlords and landlords need tenants and it is in all our interests to ensure a thriving sector into which everyone abides by both their rights and responsibilities.  

I have written to Shelter Chief Executive Polly Neate, challenging the charities claims and stating our case.  

I have also spoken directly with housing minister Stuart Andrew to set the record straight, countering Shelter’s claims and sharing the official Government figures that the charity has so conveniently ignored. 

To read the letter to Shelter in full click here