The UK Government is extending the eviction ban for England and Wales in a last minute U-turn.
The possession proceedings will not resume this Monday August 24 as planned but will be kept on hold for another four weeks – after Parliament has returned from summer recess.
It’s a victory for activists – whose hard-fought campaign sought to protect the thousands at risk of homelessness after falling into arrears during the Covid-19 recession.
Landlords will be required to give tenants six months’ notice of eviction in all cases except those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse, the Government revealed, a policy set to be in place until at least the end of March.
Big Issue founder Lord John Bird said: “The Big Issue, alongside Shelter, Generation Rent and many other marvellous partners, formed the Ride Out Recession Alliance to call on the Eviction Ban to be extended. The Government has heeded our calls and the calls of others and finally recognised the danger that hundreds of thousands of renters would have been faced with due to Covid-related poverty.
“I now call upon the Government to use the next 4 weeks to give judges the extra powers they need to prevent renters being evicted because of Covid- related reasons. Otherwise, we are going to be back to square one in a month’s time. The prevention of homelessness is the big issue of our time. We have to keep people in their own homes and in work in this pandemic caused recession and stop them falling into the treacle of homelessness.”
This is, of course, good news, but it's only a delay under pressure. We'll be back at the brink in 4 weeks.The powerful coalition that's begun to come together must stick together & build@BigIssue@Shelter@LDNRentersUnion@tenantsunionuk@radicalhousinghttps://t.co/yWkEdKPXmS
— #HomesForAll (@Homes4AllUK) August 21, 2020
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick MP 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; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.”
The Ride Out Recession Alliance has been working to create a safety net for those at risk of homelessness and poverty as a result of the Covid-19 crisis – including demanding that the Government extended the eviction ban beyond August 23.
RORA’s work will not end with the today’s announcement — we’ll continue to work on behalf of those who are hit hardest through no fault of their own.
Earlier this week the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government told The Big Issue that restarting evictions was “an important step” towards transitioning out of emergency measures and allowing the market to operate.
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Responding to the news, RORA members Shelter responded by warning that “a bullet has been dodged” but stressed that the threat of eviction at Christmas remains for thousands of people.
“The government has today recognised the very real danger that tens of thousands of renters are in. It is right for the government not to lift the ban when it risks exposing people to eviction and the threat of homelessness with no means of defence,” said the charity’s chief executive Polly Neate.
“The government must use this short window of time wisely to put proper safeguards in place for renters. People are still falling behind on their rent – 230,000 private tenants since March – leaving them vulnerable when the ban does end. And we all know even more economic storm clouds are gathering.
“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.”
Another RORA member Generation Rent also called for more protection for renters. GR director Alicia Kennedy urged the government to use the next month to form a long-term plan that takes aim at Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions, raises benefits to cover rent and provides grants to cover rent arrears caused by Covid-19.
We’re glad the Government has listened to charities, MPs, local government and public health bodies, but it’s not a permanent solution
“The extension of the eviction ban will come as an enormous relief to the thousands of renters who were terrified of losing their homes as early as next week,” said Kennedy. “We’re glad the Government has listened to charities, MPs, local government and public health bodies, but it’s not a permanent solution.
“The evictions crisis should have been addressed earlier – the decision was announced just days before courts were due to open again, putting thousands of renters through untold mental stress. And while the courts remain closed, rent debt is still building up and notices are still being served.
“The Government must use this time to introduce a long term plan to protect renters’ homes.”
Ghazal Haqani, an organiser with the London Renters Union, added: “This U-turn has been forced through by people power. But until there’s a permanent evictions ban and rent debt is forgiven, the government will just be kicking the can down the road.
“We’ve had a series of short-term extensions, and that’s caused enormous misery and stress for renters like me. Because so many of us are in arrears, we have been constantly worried for months that we are about to become totally defenceless against landlords who want to kick us out of our homes. It looks like that could happen all over again in September.
“Rents have been sky high for decades, the pandemic has cut our incomes and this recession has only just begun. Of course we’re in arrears, and of course we’re not going to be able to pay off our rent debt for a very long time.”