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Renters face March homeless spike without eviction ban, say campaigners

Generation Rent urges government to extend eviction measures and give renters cash to cover debts and prevent homelessness

Renters could face homelessness through no fault of their own from March, a tenants’ campaign group has warned, as measures protecting against eviction are due to run out.

Generation Rent called on the Westminster government to suspend so-called “no fault” evictions – where a tenant can be evicted without a reason from their landlord –  to protect renters during the pandemic.

The group’s analysis of Ministry of Justice statistics from October to December 2020 revealed courts have issued three times more possession orders where the landlord has not provided a reason than those where a reason is given. That’s despite 3,542 possession claims with a reason made in the period – a total 48 per cent higher than the 2,392 claims which did not require one.

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Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, insisted renters urgently need a “covid rent debt fund” to clear arrears accrued as Covid-19 has slashed incomes and affected jobs with current eviction protections due to expire on February 21. 

She said in a statement: “Being forced to move without a chance to appeal is barbaric in normal times, but with the eviction ban lifting on the 21st it means many of these renters will be made homeless while everyone else continues to be told to stay at home.

“We need a Covid Rent Debt Fund to clear the debts of renters whose incomes have been hit by the lockdown, but the government must also suspend no fault evictions so blameless renters don’t lose their homes while we’re still fighting the virus.”

Ministry of Justice figures published on February 11 reveal landlords made 3,542 claims for possession of properties with a reason between October and December 2020 and 2,392 claims under a “no fault” eviction.

We need a Covid Rent Debt Fund to clear the debts of renters whose incomes have been hit by the lockdown

But while courts in England granted 406 possession orders for claims with a reason, 1,289 orders were made for claims without – three times as many.

In total, 346 households were physically evicted: 189 with a reason and 157 without.

However, the Ministry of Justice’s statistician warned that the data should be treated with caution as “the small volumes of repossession actions mean that the data is unlikely to be representative of general trends in possessions”.

A ban on bailiff evictions has been in place since the Government’s ‘winter truce’ expired on January 11 as England went back into Covid-19 lockdown.

While courts have continued with hearings – prioritising “the most egregious of cases” – enforcement of possession orders cannot restart until February 21.

Generation Rent warned renters facing “no fault” evictions can apply to delay their eviction but they cannot have the claim thrown out and could face eviction as soon as March if the current measures are not extended.

Kennedy added: “Renters facing a no-fault eviction could have got behind on rent or their landlord could be selling up to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday. These cases are the opposite of egregious – renters have done nothing wrong but the court is still telling them to move out.”

Generation Rent has been part of The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance since its inception last summer and helped The Big Issue to oppose the end of the eviction ban in place since the start of the pandemic last March.

The campaigning saw the ban extended from August to September last year before ministers opted to lift it.

As Covid-19 cases began to rise and England entered a second lockdown, Generation Rent penned a letter to ministers alongside The Big Issue in November urging for the eviction ban to return.

A Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government said: “The Government has put in place unprecedented financial support to help renters during the pandemic, including furlough and strengthening the welfare safety net with billions of pounds.

“Last year we introduced a six month ban on evictions as well as six-month notice periods. A ban on enforcing evictions remains in place in all but the most serious circumstances such as anti-social behaviour or fraud.

We always said that these measures would be kept under review and will provide more details as soon as possible.”

Have you been affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic? The Big Issue is committed to supporting its readers and find ways to help people stay in their jobs and in their homes through our Ride Out Recession Alliance. Send your stories and ideas to rora@bigissue.com to help us support those who need it most.