A COUPLE with two young children have moved back in with parents after twice being evicted from rental properties through no fault of their own.

Owain Reed, 36, and his partner Mel, 31 were forced to find new accommodation when landlords decided they no longer wished to rent out their properties and slapped the young family with Section 21 “no fault” eviction notices.

Homelessness charity Shelter Cymru says the situation reflects an increasing number of private renters in Wales facing the prospect of eviction.

Owain and Mel, 31, both project managers, had been hoping to rent a home long-term while they saved for a house deposit, but the stress and cost of being repeatedly served with eviction notices has left the pair with “zero faith” in the rental market.

The couple, from Blackwood, received their most recent eviction notice in October last year – just a month before Mel gave birth to their son, Noah.

“Both occasions have been an absolute shock, completely unexpected,” Owain told The National.

“The first one was really tough. We loved the house and we thought we were going to be there for a while.

“Mentally, it does affect you for a while - but we're in a position where we've got kids, and you’ve just kind of got to get on with it.

“I wouldn't want to rent again, I would just constantly be waiting for an email to come through,” he added.

“It's just not worth the stress and the worry.”

In early 2020, the couple had just moved from Caerphilly to a house in Blackwood with their two-year-old daughter, Aoife. The plan, Owain said, was to rent somewhere big enough to accommodate their small family, while they saved up to buy a place of their own.

“It was a lovely house, and they were first-time landlords,” he said.

“Obviously, we had a young daughter at the time, so we stipulated that we were looking for somewhere long term.

“The landlord assured us they wanted someone long-term as well.”

The tenancy had been going well, Owain said. The couple had kept in touch with the landlord both directly and through their letting agency, and when they asked for permission to get a golden retriever puppy and build a fence around their garden, they got it.

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So when they received a Section 21 notice less than a year into living at the property, in January 2021, they were left confused.

“It just came completely out of the blue,” Owain said.

“We were only there for 10 months, and you know, they’d let us get the dog and do all this stuff in the house.

“We'd never experienced anything like this. It was such a panic - obviously with the dog and stuff, we weren't sure whether we’d be able to keep her.

“You know, having the dog would potentially completely limit any rental houses we could look at, we had a young daughter that we'd already moved once, and financially it wasn't great – you have the bond, the rent upfront, the moving costs, all of that.”

A Section 21 notice is otherwise known as a “no-fault” eviction notice, so-called because it allows landlords to repossess homes without establishing fault on the part of their tenant.

A Section 8 eviction notice, for comparison, requires landlords to prove that their tenants have missed rent payments, and/or have engaged in antisocial behaviour.

Owain and Mel’s landlord, they said, told them he was serving the eviction notice because the fees charged by his letting agent meant he was “barely breaking even” on the rent they were paying him.

“That was the reason he gave us – whether or not it was accurate, whether he wanted to sell, we don’t know,” Owain said.

Fortunately, the couple soon found another house to rent only a short distance away, and within a few weeks, they’d moved in.

“It’s a four-bedroom house, it’s got a lovely garden - it’s the perfect family home, so whilst it wasn’t ideal having to move, we felt we landed on our feet a bit,” Owain said.

But once again, after just nine months in their new home, they found themselves served with an eviction notice.

“It was a bit of a kick in the stomach,” Owain said.

“We were given no reason at all for this one – we’ve not spoken directly to the landlord.

“The only thing we know about them is that they live in the States. There could be any number of reasons for it, but we’re not going to find out the reason.

This Blackwood family has been evicted twice since 2020. (Picture: Owain Reed)Owain, Mel, Aoife and Noah are moving in with family in Caerphilly after losing their home twice in two years. (Picture: Owain Reed)

“They let us know in October, and we’ve taken the full six months because our second-born was due in November, so there was obviously a lot of upheaval around that time.

“We just thought we’d give ourselves as much time as absolutely possible.”

Currently, landlords must give their tenants at least six months’ notice before repossessing their home, thanks to Coronavirus legislation that remains in place until 24th March.

After that deadline, the notice period will drop to three months.

When the Welsh Government’s Renting Homes Act comes into force on 15th July, however, the regulations will change again.

This time, landlords will be required to give tenants at least six months in the property before a Section 21 can be applied for, and a further six months’ notice before the eviction can actually take place.

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In other words, from July tenants will, in most cases, be guaranteed a full year in a property before they can be legally evicted.

For Owain and Mel, the thought of being evicted again at all has put them off renting entirely.

In early April the pair, along with Aoife and new baby Noah, will be moving in with family in Caerphilly until they can find a home to buy.

“It’ll be tough, but I think for us it’s a necessary toughness for a couple of months while we top up our savings pot for a deposit,” Owain said.

“For us now, after going through this, it’s all about having the security.

“We’re only planning on moving in with family for a few months, but if we need to extend that, we can.

“We want to make sure we’re in the best position possible, because we're not really happy to look at renting again.

“You plan all these things, thinking you’ve got a steady place to bring up kids, pets, and then.. The thing that keeps us going is that we’ve probably used up all our bad luck now, so we might get a bit of good luck!”

Being served with a Section 21 notice is a risk faced by a growing number of renters in Wales, according to Shelter Cymru.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “Our casework is showing an increasing number of no-fault evictions from the private rented sector, a significant number of which are not valid for a number of reasons.

“Given the well-documented pressures many people in Wales are facing with rising rents and an ever-increasing cost of living crisis, we are worried that these practices will push more people into homelessness.

“This at a time when there are already over 7,000 people living in temporary accommodation in Wales, stretching a creaking support system to near breaking point.

“We have consistently said that the Welsh Government should keep eviction notice periods at six months, especially with the upcoming change to the law - this will give more people who are evicted time to find a suitable new home.

“Ultimately, we believe that no fault evictions should be consigned to history, because we believe that home is everything.

“It’s impossible to lead a healthy, happy, and productive life if you’re having the rug pulled from under you by landlords every year and having to move homes.”

Free information and advice on the eviction process is available 24/7 on the Shelter Cymru website.

“If you can’t find the answers you need there, you can find our contact details on the site to speak to one of our independent, expert advisors – all totally free,” the charity added.

“It’s never too early or too late to reach out to us for support.”

Have you been served with a Section 21 notice this year? We want to hear from you. You can reach us at the following email address: news@nationalwales.co.uk

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