The evictions ban that has been protecting renters in England from losing their homes will end on September 20, the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced, as the Government sets out their support package for renters over the winter.
The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance has been campaigning against the end of an evictions ban following warnings that hundreds of thousands of people could be at risk of spiralling into homelessness once the ban lifts.
RORA’s campaigning helped to convince the Government to extend the initial ban, brought in back in March to protect renters losing their home during the Covid-19 lockdown, for four weeks beyond August 23.
But the evictions ban will not be extended after September 20 with the Housing Secretary today announcing that tweaks to emergency legislation will now extend notice periods up to six months up to March 2021 for tenants, except for cases involving anti-social behaviour or fraud.
Courts will being holding possessions again from September 21, prioritising cases where anti-social behaviour or a crime has taken place or extreme rent arrears mean that the landlord is facing unmanageable debts.
Jenrick announced that renters will be protected from evictions over the Christmas period in England and Wales thanks to a ‘winter truce’, though no dates were given. Evictions will also not be enforced by bailiffs in an area where a local lockdown is in place.
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The Government also confirmed that cases prior to August 3 will have to be re-activated by landlords and then be subject to a review hearing to take place four weeks before the substantive hearing.
The onus will be on landlords to provide the courts and judges with information on how tenants have been affected by the pandemic. Failing to do so will see judges able to adjourn proceedings until the information is provided.
Renters who require additional support will be able to access Discretionary Housing Payments backed by £180 million of government funding, according to Jenrick.
A 'winter truce' on eviction enforcement is stretching the wartime rhetoric to the limit…
Why not address the root cause and provide renters with financial support where needed? https://t.co/SJC3mVuNml
— Caitlin Wilkinson (@c8linwilkinson) September 10, 2020
The Housing Secretary said: “We have protected renters during the pandemic by banning evictions for six months – the longest eviction ban in the UK. To further support renters we have increased notice periods to six months, an unprecedented measure to help keep people in their homes over the winter months.
“It’s right that we strike a balance between protecting vulnerable renters and ensuring landlords whose tenants have behaved in illegal or anti-social ways have access to justice. Our legislation means such cases will be subject to shorter notice periods and then prioritised through the judiciary’s new court processes.”
The news has been greeted with caution by RORA members Generation Rent, who welcomed the efforts to prevent renters from being made homeless over Christmas but warned that more financial help is needed to prevent the loss of homes long-term.
Alicia Kennedy, Director at Generation Rent, said: “It is welcome that renters will not face eviction by bailiffs around Christmas or where there are lockdown measures. But outside that, thousands of renters who have had eviction notices during the pandemic still have no assurance from the government whether they can stay in their home.
“Those who have lost income will find it difficult to find a new home so face many months of uncertainty, getting deeper into debt. The government must offer them more support than a Discretionary Housing Payment pot that was set up before the pandemic hit.”