Housing

Government insists plan to end eviction ban remains

Thousands are at risk of homelessness when England's eviction ban ends this Sunday. The Government is showing no signs of changing course

Robert Jenrick

The Government is doubling down on ending the Covid-19 eviction ban on August 23 despite repeated calls from campaigners to rethink the move and protect renters.

After The Big Issue approached the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, they confirmed that no last minute U-turn is on the cards – despite thousands being put at risk of homelessness after incomes were slashed during the pandemic.

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government has taken unprecedented action to support renters, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries – meaning no tenants have been forced from their home.

“We will give appropriate support to those particularly affected when proceedings start again and we have changed court rules so landlords need to provide more information about their tenants’ situation when seeking an eviction – with judges able to adjourn a case if they don’t.

“Legislation introduced in March requiring landlords to give all tenants three months’ notice will remain for possession cases, including section 21 evictions, until September 30.’’

However there is confusion as rumours of a last-minute decision to extend the ban grow.

They said that restarting evictions was “an important step” towards transitioning out of emergency measures and allowing the market to operate.

The Government also told The Big Issue it had put in place an “unprecedented support package” including strengthening of the welfare safety-net with a boost to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates.

However last month analysts for youth homelessness charity Centrepoint found that LHA payments were too small to cover average rent almost everywhere in England.

And they pointed out that new court rules had been brought in requiring landlords to outline details of a tenant’s circumstances when trying to evict them, including the effect of the pandemic on them, to last until March next year.

Housing charity Shelter’s CEO Polly Neate previously told The Big Issue they were campaigning for judges to be able to take such information into account when overseeing a possession order involving someone in rent arrears, to then require tenant and landlord negotiate a repayment plan instead.

Despite this, Generation Rent today revealed that one in five private renters who has struggled to pay rent during the pandemic has already been told to move out, been given a rent increase or been threatened with eviction.

Nearly half of struggling tenants were found to be already searching for a new home, with 59 per cent unable to find one they can afford or a landlord who will accept them.

The organisation said it showed renters in arrears have little protection against homelessness due to a shortage of affordable properties and a safety net that is not fit for purpose.

Generation Rent director Alicia Kennedy said: “Generation Rent’s new research shows private renters are racking up debt and are already being forced to leave their homes with rent increases and eviction notices. Many renters are trying to move but it is proving difficult for them to find a new home. Homelessness will be the only option for somebody as they find themselves with nowhere else to go.

“The Government’s lack of action is deplorable — renters who have lost income need protection from eviction.

The Scottish and Welsh Governments have already taken steps to extend protections, but renters in England haven’t been so lucky. Generation Rent hears daily from renters who are terrified about what will happen to them once the courts are open and evictions resume next week.

“The Government must pass emergency legislation to restrict ‘no fault’ evictions, and those for rent arrears, to ensure renters who have been hit by the pandemic do not lose their homes this autumn. They must also ensure that the safety net is fit for purpose and prevents further arrears from building up.”

The Ride Out Recession Alliance is working to create a safety net for those at risk of homelessness and poverty as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. With the help of member organisations like Generation Rent and Shelter, we’re shining a light on the most innovative ideas that show us the way forward.

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