‘It was a massive shock’: the tenants facing eviction as landlords raise rent or sell up


Laura Hayton, 46, a part-time project manager in the public sector and single mother from south Devon, had been renting her house for six years when she was informed in December that her rent would increase by 20%.

“The landlord can’t make their sums add up so they need to raise the rent. They wanted £225 more a month, an absolute fortune,” she says. “The letting agent told me that it’s still a ‘fair rent’, and that they had all gone up round here recently.”

Hayton tried to negotiate for a smaller increase but instead received an eviction notice in January.

“It was a massive shock, I was really upset and felt very insecure. For days it was all I could talk about. I have two children; they think of this as their home. The agent said the landlord wants to sell the house so they can buy a house in the Cotswolds.

“I wasn’t even given three months to find somewhere new. I started looking immediately and found the market absolutely ridiculous, really competitive. I spoke to letting agents and they said: ‘Have you got pets or kids? Yeah, well, landlords don’t want children.’”

Hayton rang the council and was told she would have to move 20 miles away and lose a bedroom to get a council property. “That would have meant I’d be driving and spending loads on fuel, and would have less time to work.”

In the end, she says, she got “very lucky” because she managed to secure a new rental after seeing a neighbour move out, and will be moving in a few weeks’ time.

“The rent at the new place is 13% more than my old one. They did the affordability check and said I can’t afford it, so I had to show them evidence of savings to cover the shortfall. I will be spending my house deposit to cover the rent, to make ends meet. It’s a landlords’ market, as there are so few rental properties available. It’s really horrible.”


Rental evictions have soared by 98% in a year, official figures revealed earlier this month. Repossessions by landlords hit 5,409 between 1 October and 31 December last year – almost double the number in the same period in 2021 – according to Ministry of Justice figures for England and Wales. Research from the homelessness charity Crisis in December suggested almost 1 million low-income households across Britain feared eviction in the coming months.

One factor is the soaring cost of servicing mortgage debt, which has hit levels not seen in more than a decade, after a period in which the Bank of England has raised its base rate 10 times in a row to tackle inflation. There are fears that Britain’s severe shortage of rentals could now be exacerbated by buy-to-let owners choosing to sell up in the face of slimming profit margins. Landlords sold 35,000 more properties than they bought across 2022, according to a Hamptons analysis of data from Countrywide, and many have spoken to the Guardian about their decision to exit the market because the sums no longer add up.

Significantly higher mortgage rates have certainly slowed new investment in rentals, at a time when demand from tenants is booming as people return to cities they left during Covid lockdowns. On top of this, the unaffordability of mortgages for prospective first-time buyers means many are being forced to rent for longer.

Sean Wilkinson, a tech worker from Bristol, was one of the private tenants who got in touch with the Guardian to say that they are being evicted because their landlords want to sell.

“We were told that our landlord was selling our flat a couple of weeks ago. She has given us four months’ notice until we have to leave and has also raised the rent by £100 for those last four months,” the 31-year-old says.

“She says she has to do it because she was heavily hit by the interest rate hike last year and can no longer afford the mortgage she has on this place. She has several properties, and has just sold another one. She just can’t afford to keep being a landlord.”

Sean Wilkinson, a private renter from Bristol, was told his landlord would have to sell up because their mortgage had become unaffordable. Photograph: Sean Wilkinson/Guardian Community

Wilkinson and his wife are now flat hunting, and will have to come up with at least £200 more a month than they were paying previously, taking the monthly total to £1,500.

“The rental market is insane at the moment, with estate agents encouraging people to offer cash upfront to secure a property and people paying 12 months upfront. We even had one estate agent request we send both our credit reports just to secure a viewing. The added factor of having a dog means it’s much harder to find a place anyway, so we are stressed about that. We’ve inquired for about 15 to 20 places so far.”

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Saffron, 23, a barista sharing a one-bed rental flat with her partner in Highbury, north London, is in a very similar situation.

“Two weeks ago we got served with a section 21 eviction notice to leave within two months. We had problems with the flat and had been emailing about repair issues for six months – mould, a bathroom leak, a bathroom tap, a bedroom door handle and broken windows. Instead of fixing it, they have told us we need to leave so they can renovate the flat and sell it. The landlord is from New Zealand, and selling the entire block, seven flats in total.

“The estate agent offered to find us a new one-bedroom flat for £1,800. The prices are astronomical but there’s no way we are paying this much. It’s crazy. One agent told us: ‘If your budget is £1,600, you need to look for £1,400 properties and bid £200 more, to have a chance of getting it.’

“We will be staying at a friend’s house for a month, which buys us some time to think, about whether we might be leaving London.”

Leah, a charity worker from Hackney, has come to the bitter conclusion that leaving the capital is all she can do after she is evicted at the end of this month.

“My flatmate and I received an email from the estate agent just before Christmas telling us our landlord wanted to let the flat to a friend,” the 30-year-old says.

“Forty-five percent of my income went on rent in this flat but now prices are through the roof. I sent 10 inquiries for rooms a day for two weeks, and was just getting nowhere. People letting rooms on SpareRoom say they get hundreds of responses per room.

“It’s looking like I’m going to move out of London. I might stay with friends elsewhere in England, or go back to Northern Ireland to work from home and wait for prices to come down again, or for a slightly calmer market.

“When will [the government] acknowledge rent as a cause of low economic growth? The money people spend on rent is hoarded instead of spent more widely.

“I’m devastated – my life is in London, as are most of my personal relationships. But there’s no other option; it’s just got too mad.”

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