Homeless in 10 minutes: how evicted tenants face #ClosedDoors despite government promises


At the start of the pandemic we were told to ‘Stay Home and Save Lives’. But as the full economic and social impact of lockdowns, illness and furlough took hold, it quickly became apparent that many people’s homes were going to be at risk. 

Then-housing secretary Robert Jenrick tried to allay fears, tweeting “no one should lose their home as a result of the #coronavirus epidemic”. And for a time they couldn’t. Possession hearings - where landlords can apply to have tenants evicted - were paused for six months. But they started up again in early October and a ban on bailiff-led evictions was lifted in spring. 

We at the Bureau wanted to test whether Jenrick’s promise had stood up - had anyone lost their home because of the pandemic? But we soon realised it was almost an impossible question, because there is no official data published on the outcomes of possession hearings. Which is when we took matters into our own hands.

We recruited and trained 21 reporters and sent them out to possession courts across England and Wales to log the cases they saw. It wasn’t easy; we were turned away from many courtrooms by judges who did not realise that a change in the rules meant hearings are now public. But we persevered and together we logged details of more than 550 rental cases and sat through over 100 hours of hearings to give an unprecedented insight into how the pandemic has impacted people’s housing situation.

We found people in dire financial straits are losing their homes in a matter of minutes because of a legal system that has failed to account for the catastrophic impact of the pandemic, with judges powerless to prevent evictions being ordered.

>>  Read the whole #ClosedDoors investigation now
Image: Alice Mollon/TBIJ

Still to come...

We've built the first dataset of its kind and spoken to tenants and landlords across the country, but there's still more to do. In the coming weeks, we'll share what we found when we dug into the measures that were introduced by government to try and deal with the strain and pressures on landlords, tenants and the courts. 

We’ll also be bringing you more details about how we did the work - how our reporters struggled for access to courtrooms across the country and what they found when they finally got inside. And we hope to bring you more data findings from our unprecedented analysis. Please keep helping us spread the word and watch this space for future stories. 

>> Follow us on Twitter for the latest #ClosedDoors updates

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The Bureau Local team
CharlesGareth, Emiliano, EmilyEveMeganRachelShirish and Vicky

About us

The Bureau Local has been set up by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and is a people-powered network setting the news agenda and sparking change, from the ground up. 

We're made up of reporters, data experts, community activists, open data champions and more, who are passionate about local journalism and the role it should play in holding power to account.

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