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Age UK urges government to abolish Section 21

Published on 09 October 2019 12:01 AM


Unaffordable rents, shoddy living conditions and the threat of no fault eviction are putting thousands of older people who rent their homes from private landlords at risk, according to Age UK as it launches its campaign calling on the Government to abide by its promise to abolish ‘Section 21’.[i]

The Charity is asking the Government to give all older renters the security of tenure necessary to have peace of mind and feel safe in their own homes – all the more important for those in later life.

For older people who do not own their own homes and with access to social housing extremely restricted now because of a chronic lack of supply, renting privately is often the only option left. The proportion of older private renters has doubled in the last fifteen years, and the proportion of middle-aged private renters has trebled[ii], meaning that as things stand it is certain that more and more people will be growing old in the private rented sector in the years to come.

Currently, private landlords can use Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to repossess a property without needing to give a reason to the tenant or to the courts, resulting in three-quarters of a million older renters in England[iii] living with uncertainty on a daily basis.

Yet older private renters include some of the poorest and most vulnerable older people in our society. Almost half of all older private renters have a disability and/or longstanding illness.[iv] Rising rents are leaving one in three older renters in poverty after their rent is paid, compared to just 7%, fewer than one in ten, of older people living in owner-occupied homes.[v] For someone trying to manage on a state pension the Charity is concerned that means missing meals or turning down the heating just to keep a roof over their head.

Through its new campaign, Home Truths: Security for Older Private Renters, Age UK is calling on people to have their say about the Government’s consultation on abolishing Section 21 – the rule that gives private landlords the power to achieve an accelerated no fault eviction and that makes millions of renters nationwide feel disempowered and insecure.[vi] The consultation closes this Saturday, 12thOctober.

Older people without much money who have no choice but to rent privately at or near the bottom of the market often have to put up with extremely poor accommodation such as that which is cold, damp, with dilapidated decoration and broken appliances. Nearly three in ten older private renters, almost a quarter of a million older people, do not live in decent housing. [vii] Poor housing has far-reaching health consequences, costing the NHS an estimated £1.4 billion per year[viii] and leaving many older people who are already living in poor health to suffer on a daily basis. Yet older renters are often scared that they will be thrown out in short order if they ‘make a fuss’ and complain.

Ian, 69, was a home owner who was forced into private renting when his house was repossessed. He was happy and settled when he received a Section 21 notice with only a few weeks’ notice. He said: "I moved into a complex in Leeds owned by a private landlord. The flat had single glazing and no heating but I liked it there because I had good neighbours. I had been there three years when everyone in the block received a section 21 and only a few weeks’ notice to move out.

“I have a secure tenancy now and I am so relieved. I feel so much safer and I can decorate the house to make it my own. I’ve just done my garden. I feel more secure, more at home and more relaxed. I’m very happy where I am now."

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Significant and growing numbers of older people who rent their homes from private landlords are struggling financially and in terms of their health, and the fact that they can be thrown out at short notice and for no good reason simply increases the insecurity they face. No one should have to put up with that as an older person – a time of life when a sense of security is more important than ever. That’s why Age UK believes it is right that the Government abolishes section 21 as it is consulting on doing at the moment.

“Of course, many private landlords behave decently and we note that there are lots of older people among them, but the fact remains that the current law leaves tenants, including older tenants, with too few rights. Getting rid of section 21 would achieve a fairer balance within these relationships. We recognise that organisations representing landlords say that alternative legal processes are slow and the courts under-resourced, but that’s a reason for the Government to address these deficiencies in our legal system, not to retreat from its expressed intention of abolishing section 21.

“On current trends the numbers of older people who rent privately are set to rise very substantially in the next few years and we have to question whether this is a desirable trend. Not everyone wants to or can afford to buy their own home and for older people especially social housing may be a more suitable tenure, offering greater protection and often higher standards too. However, with demand so outstripping supply it looks like older people will be heading into the private rented sector in increasing numbers for years to come and so it is important to make the law fair and that’s what our new campaign is all about.”

Age UK has developed a range of resources which aim people with housing or financial concerns. Older people and their families can find advice on Age UK’s website, call Age UK’s free national advice line all year round on 0800 169 65 65 (lines open 8am – 7pm) or contact their local Age UK.


[i] A Section 21 Notice is a part of the Housing Act that allows landlords to evict tenants with no reason.

[ii] MHCLG (2019). Source:

Table AT1.4 shows that in 2003-04, 4% of people aged 55 or over were privately renting and that by 2017-18 this had risen to 7%; and the corresponding figures for the aged group 45 to 54 year olds are 5% to 16%.

[iii] Age UK analysis of the English Housing Survey 2017-18. The number of people aged 60 or over living in the private rented sector is estimated to be 744,698 (with a 95% confidence interval of between 616,703 and 895,964). Households with members aged below 60 and aged 60 or above are assumed to only have one person aged 60 or over living in them due to the limitations of the data; this may lead to an underestimation of the number of people aged 60 or over living in the private rented sector

[iv]Age UK analysis of English Longitudinal Study of Ageing Wave 8 (2016-17). The proportion of people aged 60 or over living in the private rented sector that have a difficulty with one or more Activity of Daily Livening (ADL) is estimated to be 27.3%. The proportion of people aged 60 or over living in the private rented sector that have a long-standing illness that is limiting is estimated to be 42.9%. The proportion of people aged 60 or over living in the private rented sector that have either or both of these is estimated to be 48.2%

[v] Age UK analysis of the English Housing Survey 2017-18. The proportion of people aged 60 or over living in the private rented sector with a household income below 60% of the median household income (after housing costs) is estimated to be 33.6%. The proportion of people aged 60 or over living an owner-occupied home with a household income below 60% of the median household income (after housing costs) is estimated to be 7.3%

[vii] Age UK analysis of the English Housing Survey 2016-17. The number of people aged 60 or over living in non-decent private rented homes is estimated to be 224,358 (with a 95% confidence interval of between 162,616 and 319,579). This represents around 28% of people aged 60 or over living in the private rented sector

[viii] BRE (2015). The cost of poor housing to the NHS [online]. Briefing paper. BRE website. Available at: (accessed on 9 September 2019).

-- Ends --

Notes to editors

[1] An ‘older household’ for the purposes of the BEIS fuel poverty figures being used in the press release is defined as ‘a household where the oldest person is aged 60 or over’.

[1] Age UK calculation: Based on the End Fuel Poverty Coalition’s fuel poverty projections (available here: combined with BEIS statistics on the proportion of fuel poor households where the oldest person is aged 60+ (available here:   

[1] Ibid

[1] BEIS, 2021. Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics in England, 2021 (2019 data). Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: [Accessed 03/11/21]. LILEE data, table 22.  



[1] DWP (29 October 2020). Income-related benefits: estimates of take-up 2018-19:  

[1] 25,681 people in total have told Age UK that they are worried about their energy bills. The time frame for campaigners saying they’re worried about bills is 21st Oct – 14th November 2021.

[1] To date, 6,536 Age UK campaigners have written to their MP to raise their concerns about energy issues. The timeframe for the MP action is Thursday 18th – Wednesday 24th  November 2021.

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 (out of hours: 07071 243 243).

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Last updated: Nov 26 2021

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