Housing

Renters’ lockdown protections will ‘only delay homelessness crisis’

The government has stopped short of another evictions ban instead announcing that renters will not face bailiff action until January 11

Eviction letter Shutterstock

Campaigners have accused housing ministers of “choosing not to act” to ban evictions ahead of the upcoming “winter truce” after the government announced that renters will not face bailiff action during England’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted that renters will be protected from eviction until January 11 after calling for a halt to bailiffs during England’s four-week Covid-19 lockdown.

The already announced ‘winter truce’ will run between December 11 and January 11, pausing evictions over the Christmas period.

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Generation Rent has criticised the announcement for failing to bring in an immediate eviction ban like the one in place between March and September this year.

Alicia Kennedy, Generation Rent director, said: “The Government had an opportunity to protect renters from losing their homes, and have instead chosen not to act. A non-binding pause on bailiff action is completely inadequate.

“Eviction notices will be dropping through renters’ doors throughout lockdown, and the courts will be open the entire time, putting pressure on renters to move out while the pandemic rages on.

“This weak guidance to bailiffs will not protect the most vulnerable, and simply delays the looming homelessness crisis.”

A member of The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance, Generation Rent penned an open letter to the government yesterday pleading for an eviction ban to be brought in following ministers’ action to extend mortgage holidays. The Big Issue backed their call, alongside other RORA members including Nationwide Foundation and Zacchaeus 2000 Trust.

Instead, the housing secretary has opted to halt bailiff action, insisting that the pause will protect renters until January 11. The six-month notice periods for evictions that were brought back in September mean that renters can stay in their homes until May 2021, he added.

Jenrick said: “We have already taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic including introducing a six-month notice period and financial support to help those struggling to pay their rent.

“We are now going further by protecting renters from eviction during the new national restrictions and throughout the Christmas period – with a pause on bailiff activity other than in the most serious circumstances, such as anti-social behaviour or fraud.

“Striking the right balance between helping tenants in need while ensuring landlords have access to justice in the most serious cases.”

Generation Rent has already issued a dire warning that 40,000 renters could be evicted from their homes in the coming months following analysis of court claims.

As well as calling for an eviction ban, the campaigners have urged the government to end section 21 “no fault” evictions – where the landlord does not need to give a reason for taking back their property and turning out tenants – as well as boosting Universal Credit to cover average rents to protect renters.

Kennedy added: “The furlough scheme has been extended, mortgage holidays have been extended. Why, then, has the Government failed to extend protections against eviction?

“To keep renters safely in their homes, the Government must end section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and evictions for covid rent arrears, lift the benefit cap and increase Universal Credit to ensure it covers average rents.”

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.

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