Four-week extension of eviction ban confirmed amid fears of homelessness surge

The Canary

The eviction ban has been extended for four weeks and landlords will have to give the majority of tenants six months’ notice to protect vulnerable renters hit by the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis from a winter eviction.

28 days

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced the move after charities warned there could be mass evictions around Christmas and said tens of thousands of outgoing tenants could be unable to access affordable homes, prompting a “devastating homelessness crisis”.

Renters have been protected during the virus crisis by a ban announced in March and extended in June, but it was due to end in England and Wales next week. Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said:

I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of Covid-19. That is why today I am announcing a further four-week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months.

I am also increasing protections for renters – six-month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.

However it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again. So when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.

The six-month notice periods will remain in place until at least March 31 and will apply to all but the most serious cases.

U-Turn

Writing to judges after a meeting of the civil procedure rule committee (CPRC), which makes rules for county courts, Master of the Rolls Terence Etherton said:

This four-week extension to stay relating to housing possession cases will allow for further work to be done to prepare for the stay to be lifted which in many respects can be welcomed.

Labour leader Keir Starmer welcomed the “11th hour U-turn”, but said “such a brief extension means there is a real risk that this will simply give renters a few more weeks to pack their bags”. He said prime minister Boris Johnson has “stuck his head in the sand” for months, adding:

The ban should not be lifted until the Government has a credible plan to ensure that no-one loses their home as a result of coronavirus.

Crisis

Crisis director of policy Matt Downie said the government must now use the time it has bought to deal with the issue properly rather than simply further extending the ban. He told the PA news agency:

This is not the first time that we’ve had to reach the 11th hour to find out whether people desperately worried about homelessness will be protected from evictions.

It creates deep concern, stress amongst people themselves who know that landlords want to evict them, but also for all of us trying to make sure we don’t see another wave of homelessness.

It’s not a responsible way to go about managing people living in precarious situations up and down the country, and we very much hope September 20 doesn’t lead to us having to have exactly the same conversation on the 18th or 19th of September.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said:

A bullet may have been dodged with this extension but, as soon as Parliament returns, it must give judges extra powers to stop renters being evicted because of ‘Covid-arrears’.

Facing eviction this Christmas is not a present anybody wants.

National Residential Landlords Association chief executive Ben Beadle heavily criticised the extension, saying landlords “cannot be expected to foot the bill for Government failure”. The National Residential Landlords Association also claimed that it’s wrong to assume every tenant in arrears due to coronavirus is at automatic risk of eviction, and extending the ban is not necessary. Policy director Chris Norris said landlords “have been powerless to take any action against those who cause misery for fellow tenants and neighbours”.

Risk

Politicians, public health organisations, councils and charities all warned of the risks associated with lifting the ban. Sixteen public health organisations believe it could “significantly contribute to a rise in coronavirus infections”, with homeless people more likely to have health conditions that increase their vulnerability.

Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield estimated that 420,000 children will return to school in September with the threat of eviction hanging over them if the ban was not extended. The Labour Party also called for an extension, in a letter to justice secretary Robert Buckland on Friday, saying a “tsunami” of evictions proceedings could overwhelm the courts.

Former communities secretary lord Eric Pickles told Times Radio “it would be really inappropriate to end the ban on evictions”.

Continuing uncertainty

Some 174,000 renters had been warned by their landlords that they are facing eviction, and 58,000 moved out after being asked to leave during lockdown, according to Shelter. It estimates that almost a quarter of a million renters had fallen behind on their rent by the end of June, while the District Councils Network believes up to half a million people could be at risk of eviction.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Polly Neate, a woman who earns £130k a year, who’s charity receives tens of millions of pounds of public funds, but who do little to help renters other than cobble together the odd bit of advice. A true champagne socialist in the style of that wretched Bob Crowe who wouldn’t give up his Council House to allow a disadvantaged person a home.
      The system needs overhauling. From a sensible eviction policy, to addressing the misuse of Universal Credit that should be paying rent. Misuse of that Housing portion should be classed as Fraud.
      The excuse of Covid is a weak one. 95% of tenancies have no issues at the moment. Of the 5% where there are arrears, many have repayment plans, or reduced rental amounts. It’s the skiplickers that no doubt have ‘eat the rich’ festooned on tshirts etc that are the issue.

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