End of eviction ban leaves tenants in Britain at risk

Hundreds of thousands of renters in Great Britain face being kicked out of their homes when a ban on evictions put in place to protect tenants during coronavirus is lifted on Tuesday, a leading charity has warned.

An estimated 400,000 renters have either been served an eviction notice or told they could be, according to research published on Monday by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The charity estimated that a further 1m households were concerned about possible eviction in the next three months, half of them families with children. 

Tenants from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds were almost twice as likely to have concerns about eviction than those from a white background, according to the JRF, which polled more than 10,000 households in England, Scotland and Wales.

The ban on evictions was put in place in March last year to protect tenants who fell into arrears as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

But what was originally intended to be a short-term measure has been extended several times. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of renters have built up considerable arrears over the past 15 months and now fear being forced from their homes.

A third of those in arrears have borrowed during the pandemic to try to cover their rent payments, the JRF said. 

Tom Copley, deputy London mayor for housing, said the eviction ban “was only ever a sticking plaster covering the many issues affecting renters” and those who had fallen into arrears faced “possible eviction proceedings and homelessness”.

Increases to universal credit payments and housing benefit during the pandemic had not been enough to keep renters from falling into debt, said Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of Generation Rent, a housing charity. 

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“Lifting restrictions on evictions now, without dealing with all this debt, is a reckless move from a government who said people who lost income in the pandemic wouldn’t lose their home,” he added.

Having committed to “turn generation rent into generation buy”, ministers had not done enough to protect tenants during the crisis, according to the JRF. 

“The decision to provide a generous tax break to wealthier homeowners through the stamp duty holiday while failing to protect renters points to a worrying two-tier recovery in which those who were prospering prior to the pandemic will continue to do so, while those who have been hit hard will sink even further behind,” said Rachelle Earwaker, an economist at the charity.

The JRF has called on ministers to boost grant funding to those in arrears via the discretionary housing payment system, while Generation Rent proposes that the government set up a fund of almost £300m to cover rent debts.

The government said that with national restrictions being eased it was “the right time to start to lift the emergency measures we put in place”. In a statement it said “tenants would continue to be supported with longer notice periods” and that financial help was still available “such as the furlough scheme, which has been extended until the end of September”.

“Evictions will not be carried out if a member of the home has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating,” the government added.


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