Louise* (*not her real name) lives in a small two bedroom property with her daughters.

Currently, only the living room and bedrooms have heating. The family are relying on fan heaters for the kitchen and outside lean-to – which contains the only toilet. This means her heating and gas bills are extraordinarily high.

She knew the property had no central heating when she viewed it, but the Council promised to repair this by the time she moved.

When you view a property you don’t have much time, so I felt pressure to accept. It took the Council 2 years to install heating after we moved, and this is still only in the living room and bedrooms.

There are lots of other problems, like damp and dust from the layers of wallpaper. One of my daughters has fractured her ankle because there is no stair-rail. I struggle to cook because there is not much kitchen space.

I don’t invite anyone to our house. I slap on a smile and keep it all in when people are around.

Mostly I don’t feel like I’m living, I’m just existing.

Louise* mentions viewing a property and the pressure she felt to accept the offer. Viewings often aren’t very long – Louise* says hers was about 10 minutes.

When people are given an offer of a property by the Council, they are advised always to accept the offer. This is because not doing so may result in them being deemed ‘intentionally homeless‘. In such a case, the Council can discharge their duty to house someone and they can be removed from the housing register.

This can put families under a lot of stress when they are offered housing that is outside of the area (it is not uncommon for housing to be over an hour away from a family’s work or school) or even the city.

In 2017/2018, 103 homelessness applications in Newham were rejected on the basis of intentional homelessness (Local Authority Homelessness Statistics).


Tania* (*not her real name) has three kids, and the youngest is just 9 months old. In September they were issued a Section 21 eviction notice by their landlord. They are currently in temporary accommodation.

“I contacted the Council ahead of my eviction, but the day we were evicted we still had no news of where we would be staying that night. As you can imagine, my children were very upset – I was doing my best to comfort them, but I was also upset myself. Being evicted is frightening.

I am very grateful to be in temporary accommodation, but it is still difficult to deal with the uncertainty. The Council said we would only be housed here until November, but here we are – three months on. My older two children keep asking when we are going home but I have nothing to tell them. The flat we are in is small and damp, and they don’t want to come back here after school, so we go and sit in the local library until it shuts.”

Tania was evicted because of a section 21 eviction notice.

Section 21 eviction notices allow private landlords to evict tenants without needing to establish fault (reason or grounds for eviction). Private renters in the UK generally have very short fixed-term contracts of either six or 12 months. After the fixed-term ends, landlords can issue an eviction notice under section 21 at any time.

In Tania’s case, because she was unable to find or afford another tenancy, she became homeless, at which point the Council rehoused her because she is in a ‘priority need category’ as the carer of three young children.

In London, 31% of Local Authority homeless acceptances in 2017/18 were due to tenants being issued section 21 eviction notices (MHCLG, Statutory homelessness live table 774, 29 June 2018).

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests the issuing of a section 21 no-fault eviction was the most common reason a private sector tenancy ended, whereas rent arrears was the most common reason in social housing (Poverty, Evictions and Forced Moves, pg24). Shelter’s research has linked section 21 eviction notices to the instability of renting privately – in the last five years, one in five of all families renting privately have moved at least three times (A Vision for Social Housing, p44).

Families renting privately have also expressed fears about reporting disrepairs because of the possibility of being issued a section 21 eviction notice. This is not altogether unfounded – research by Citizens Advice found 46% of private renters who made a complaint about the condition of their home (such as damp and mould) were issued with an eviction notice within six months (Touch and Go, pg2).