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Housing

40,000 renters could face eviction over winter, say tenants campaigners

Generation Rent are calling on the government to ban evictions over the winter to protect renters

As many as 40,000 renters could be evicted from their homes in the coming months, according to tenants’ rights campaigners who are calling for mandatory evictions to be banned over the winter.

Generation Rent, part of The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance, analysed court claims to project that tens of thousands of people who have fallen into rent arrears during the pandemic or whose landlords want to regain their property could be made homeless.

The Government banned mandatory evictions in England between March and September but tenants who have lost their jobs or wages as a result of the pandemic have been left without protection as the second wave looms and winter draws in.

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“These figures suggest there may be a vast build-up of evictions cases, just as we enter a difficult winter with Covid cases rising and the economic consequences of Covid about to hit,” said Thangham Debonnaire, the shadow housing secretary. “The Government never should have lifted the evictions ban without a credible plan to ensure that nobody lost their home because of coronavirus.”

The Government has extended eviction notice periods and brought in extra protections for tenants in lockdown areas and over Christmas, but those working on the frontlines insist this isn’t enough.

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Polly Neate, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, which joined The Big Issue in battling the end of the eviction ban in the summer, said: “A total of 11 million people rent in England, and the pandemic has laid bare how insecure private renting can be for them. 

“Hundreds of thousands have been pushed to the brink, struggling to pay rent in the face of reduced working hours or job losses. With the country in a tough recession and more redundancies ahead, the situation will get worse if the government doesn’t act swiftly.” 

The analysis by Generation Rent (GR) took Ministry of Justice figures from 2019 and 2020 to understand the scale of the problem.

More than 11,000 private landlords applied for a Section 8 eviction notice — commonly filed because of rent arrears — with local courts between April and September in 2019. This number is expected to double in 2020, as the number of tenants falling behind on their rent has reportedly doubled throughout the Covid-19 crisis, according to YouGov polling by Shelter.

When added to the 9,441 Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction claims that were made over the same period, as well as the 9,000 outstanding possession claims that sat in the court system at the end of March 2020, Generation Rent estimates that more than 40,000 evictions could be in the pipeline.

With the country in a tough recession and more redundancies ahead, the situation will get worse if the government doesn’t act swiftly

The Government’s eviction ban means that the latest figures are lagging behind the true reality of how many tenants are facing action from landlords. Ministry of Justice statistics show an 89 per cent drop in possession claims between April and June year-on-year due to the evictions moratorium.

With Covid-19 cases on the rise and measures to contain it being ramped up all over the UK, Generation Rent are calling for the government to reintroduce an evictions ban over the winter as well as delivering on promises made to end Section 21 evictions.

Ministers have said that plans to change legislation have been shelved until the Covid-19 crisis is under control.

Alicia Kennedy, Generation Rent director, said: “The eviction ban is over, and we estimate 40,000 renters are already facing court proceedings. As we enter a second wave of coronavirus, the Government must act to restrict section 21 no-fault evictions, and section 8 evictions for arrears due to coronavirus. 

“A temporary ban on bailiff action is nowhere near enough, as many renters will leave their homes upon receiving an eviction notice. The Government must deliver on its pledge to end section 21, and in the meantime introduce emergency legislation to ban mandatory evictions and keep private renters safe from homelessness this winter.”

Generation Rent is part of The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance, a growing movement to prevent homelessness and protect jobs.

Shelter has also partnered with The Big Issue on RORA and are calling for renters to receive financial assistance over the winter to stave off eviction.

Neate said: “Despite the winter ‘truce’ on evictions and six-month notice period, many people have been left with a pending eviction hanging over their heads. 

Shelter, along with other charities and landlord organisations, wants to prevent renters from facing eviction in the first place. The government should offer renters emergency financial relief to help them clear ‘Covid arrears’. This, alongside measures to strengthen the welfare safety net, provides the best shot at keeping people safe in their homes.” 

Currently the UK government has promised a “winter truce” on evictions, meaning that between December 11 and January 11 no renter will be forced out of their home. They have also extended eviction notice periods to six months and stressed that anyone who lives in an area under local lockdown will be temporarily protected from eviction.

A Government spokesperson said: “We do not recognise these figures and have seen no evidence to support them.

“We’ve taken unprecedented action to protect renters, including a six-month ban on evictions and preventing people getting into financial hardship by helping businesses to pay salaries and boosting the welfare safety net by over £9 billion.

“Renters will continue to be protected through winter, including 6-month notice periods and asking bailiffs not to enforce evictions in high or very high Covid alert areas. Anyone now served notice will not have to leave their home over winter except in the most serious cases, such as anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse.”

The Big Issue is fighting the housing and unemployment crisis through the Ride Out Recession Alliance, bringing together the most innovative ideas and experts to help keep people in work and in their homes during the recession.

Share your story or get in touch with what you think can be done to support those in need by emailing rora@bigissue.com.

Image: Yui Mok/PA

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