Eviction ban extended until end of August to protect renters hit by Covid-19

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the extension on Friday evening after campaigners warned of a looming evictions crisis

The evictions ban has been extended until August, the Government has announced, after campaigners pleaded with ministers to stop housing courts reopening at the end of June.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the news on Twitter as his Health counterpart Matt Hancock delivered the daily coronavirus briefing to the nation.

Jenrick confirmed that tenants who have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and are struggling to pay their bills will not be removed from their homes until the end of August.

The original evictions ban was brought in at the start the crisis and was due to expire on June 25 when housing courts would reopen.

Campaigners had warned that, with the country still largely in lockdown and job prospects and the economy not yet improving, Brits were 20 days away from a “rent debt and evictions crisis worse than anything we’ve ever seen before in this country” if the deadline was not extended.

But Jenrick announced the extension today. He said: “We are suspending evictions from social & private rented accommodation by a further two months.

“Eviction hearings will not be heard in courts until the end of August and no-one will be evicted from their home this summer due to coronavirus.”

The move has been welcomed by Shelter chief executive Polly Neate but she warned that the measures were “only a stop-gap” and called for more protection for renters and support into work to stop a homelessness crisis further down the line.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The government has reset the clock on the evictions ban, buying the families who were only weeks away from losing their homes, a vital stay of execution. But it’s only a stop-gap.

“The ban hasn’t stopped people who’ve lost their jobs during this pandemic from racking up rent arrears. Even if they have a plan to pay them back, these debts will throw struggling renters straight back into the firing line of an automatic eviction as soon as the ban does lift.

“It’s critical that Robert Jenrick uses this extension wisely to change the law and properly protect renters. Judges must be given the power to stop people losing their homes because of coronavirus, otherwise the country will face a tidal wave of homelessness after the summer. Sooner or later, the government has to stop kicking the can down the road.”

Ahead of the extension, the London Renters Union had been calling for the eviction ban to be made permanent and had also urged the Government to carry out its election pledge to abolish “no fault” Section 21 repossessions, the most common method used by landlords to evict tenants.

Zara, 42, a LRU organiser from East Ham who facilitates parenting courses for a local authority, is in the same difficult position as many renters who have seen their incomes slashed by the pandemic: the decision whether to pay rent or pay for essentials like food or utilities.

In a call for the eviction ban to be made permanent ahead of Jenrick’s announcement, she said: “Me and my husband refused to pay full rent, just so that we could afford essentials like food and gas – and our landlord issued an eviction notice. Using resources from the London Renters Union website we’ve managed to resist eviction so far, but the pandemic has almost totally cut our income.”