politics

Evictions ban extended to March 31 – but campaigners say it's not enough


The ban on bailiff-enforced evictions in England is to be extended until the end of March, the Government has announced.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the ban – introduced at the start of the pandemic last March to protect private renters – will remain in place for all but the most serious cases for another six weeks.

The latest extension comes after ministers announced last month that it would continue until February 22, having been due to expire on January 11.

Mr Jenrick said: “We have 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.

“By extending the ban on the enforcement of evictions by bailiffs, in all but the most serious cases, we are ensuring renters remain protected during this difficult time.



Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick made the announcement overnight
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick made the announcement overnight

“Our measures strike the right balance between protecting tenants and enabling landlords to exercise their right to justice.”

National Residential Landlords Association chief executive Ben Beadle warned the announcement was storing up future problems.

He said 800,000 private renters have built up arrears since the ban came into force, which they would struggle to ever pay off.

“It will lead eventually to them having to leave their home and face serious damage to their credit scores,” he said.

“The Government needs to get a grip and do something about the debt crisis renters and landlords are now facing.

“A package of hardship loans and grants is needed as a matter of urgency. To expect landlords and tenants simply to muddle through without further support is a strategy that has passed its sell-by date.”

Shelter said its research shows almost almost 445,000 private renting adults in England have fallen behind on their rent or been served with some kind of eviction notice in the last month.

Chief executive Polly Neate said: “Thousands of renters who’ve been living in fear of the bailiffs’ knock at the door, have today been given a few more weeks in their home.

“This short extension to the bailiff ban may keep people safe for now, but it’s not an answer to the evictions crisis. Renters are still are being served with eviction notices every day, and our helpline is flooded with calls from those desperately worried about paying their rent.

“Before the ban is lifted, the Government must give renters a real way out of debt. That means a lifeline of emergency grants to help pay off ‘Covid-arrears’ so people can avoid the terrifying risk of eviction altogether.”

Labour ’s Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire said: “Last minute decisions and half-measures from the Government are putting people’s homes at risk.

“Ministers promised nobody would lose their home because of Coronavirus, but the current ban isn’t working. The Government should give people security in their homes, by strengthening and extending the ban for the period restrictions are in place.”

Alicia Kennedy, Director of Generation Rent, said: “It is right that the eviction ban is being renewed while the country remains in lockdown. It would be dangerous to allow people to be made homeless when everyone else is being told to stay at home.

“But courts are still approving eviction claims where the landlord doesn’t need a reason, despite the government’s promise to prioritise only ‘the most egregious cases’. That means a cliff edge for renters who are facing eviction because their landlord is selling up or whose reduced income doesn’t cover the rent.”

Claire Weldon of the London Renters Union told Mr Jenrick in a letter: “You promised in March last year that “no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home”. But this January you broke that promise by quietly watering down the evictions ban.

“Many of our members were up to date with their rent payments before the start of the pandemic. But just like another 800,000 renters around the country they have lost income since March 2020, fallen into rent debt, and are now at immediate risk of being evicted. Many people in this situation have possession hearings this month and, thanks to your rule change, they could be made homeless in a matter of weeks.”





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