Housing

Bailiff evictions ban extended but debts still pose threat to renters

Tenants will be protected from bailiff action for another two months but campaigners warn renters need support for mounting debts

evictions ban

Robert Jenrick has announced that measures protecting renters from eviction will be extended. Image credit: Flickr/Number 10

The ban on bailiff-enforced evictions will now run until May 31, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced, but campaigners have warned tenants’ mounting debts could mean renters are “at risk of losing their homes” once measures end.

The ban, which stops landlords employing bailiffs to evict tenants and covers all but the most serious cases of fraud or domestic violence, had been due to run until March 31 but was extended in line with the Westminster Government’s roadmap out of Covid-19 lockdown.

The requirement for landlords to provide six-month notice periods to tenants before evictions was also extended until the end of May, but landlords will still be able to issue eviction notices, unlike the eviction ban in place from March to September 2020. A ban on evicting commercial tenants was also announced and will run until June 30

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Jenrick said: “We have taken unprecedented action to support both commercial and residential tenants throughout the pandemic – with a £280 billion economic package to keep businesses running and people in jobs and able to meet their outgoings, such as rent. 

“These measures build on the Government’s action to provide financial support as restrictions are lifted over the coming months – extending the furlough scheme, business rates holiday and the Universal Credit uplift.”

The UK Government insisted the measures will protect jobs and mean renters in sectors affected by the pandemic can return to work, citing Labour Force Survey figures that show half of all hospitality workers and 36 per cent of retail employees rent their homes.

Shelter’s Polly Neate said the measures will “keep renters safe for now, but they won’t last forever”.

Ministers will “consider the best approach to move away from emergency protections” from the beginning of June but charities and campaigners have warned that hundreds of thousands of tenants have fallen behind on their rent because of the pandemic. 

We need urgent action to prevent homelessness, housing insecurity and long-term problem debt from taking hold when the newly extended suspension is lifted

Debt charity StepChange’s director of external affairs Richard Lane has warned mounting rent arrears will leave renters “at risk of losing their homes” once the bailiff-enforced evictions ban ends.

StepChange is among a number of campaigners – including Generation Rent (GR), Crisis, Shelter and the National Residential Landlords Association, who have called for renters to be given cash support from the government to pay off rent arrears ahead of last week’s Spring Budget. But Chancellor Rishi Sunak did not announce any measures for renters in his financial statement.

“The Government’s continued suspension of rental evictions until the end of May is a welcome step which will give renters affected by the pandemic vital time to get back on their feet.” said Lane.

“However, renters are among the groups hit hardest by the pandemic, and many of those struggling have fallen well behind on their rent or resorted to borrowing to get by.

“Without targeted financial support, many renters are at risk of losing their homes. We need urgent action to prevent homelessness, housing insecurity and long-term problem debt from taking hold when the newly extended suspension is lifted.”

GR director Alicia Kennedy added: “We need a Covid Rent Debt Fund to help renters who have been affected by the pandemic and left with debts they’re unable to pay. The Government must also bring forward the Renters Reform Bill and end ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions so blameless renters don’t lose their homes as a result of the pandemic.”

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