Coronavirus evictions ban extended until September in latest government U-turn

Coronavirus evictions ban extended until September in latest government U-turn

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The government has extended its temporary ban on evicting tenants by a month after it was warned that letting the moratorium lapse would create a “wave of homelessness”.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government confirmed on Friday afternoon that the suspension of evictions would continue until 20 September.

Landlords will also be required to give six months’ notice to any tenants they want to evict, with this separate provision in force until “at least 31 March 2021”, ministers said.

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But a senior Tory politician warned that the move did not go far enough and suggested the ban on evictions should have been extended until spring next year.

Evictions in England were due to start again on Sunday, with approximately 227,000 private renters known to have fallen into arrears as of the end of June, and 174,000 known to have been threatened with eviction by their landlord or agent.

The Scottish government has already extended a full ban on evictions to March 2021, while in Wales, where the new extension will also apply, any eviction will require a notice period of six months.

Lord Pickles, a former Tory cabinet minister, said he “would have preferred to see an extension until spring”.

That would allow the government time to make a number of changes that could ease the impact of any lift of the ban, he said.

As the government’s furlough scheme winds down between now and the end of October it will also “become more apparent the number of people who have lost jobs”, he told the BBC.

A number of Tory MPs are also understood to have made their concerns known in recent days about this weekend’s upcoming cliff edge.

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, who had called for an extension in The Independent earlier this week, said: “This eleventh-hour U-turn was necessary, but such a brief extension means there is a real risk that this will simply give renters a few more weeks to pack their bags.”

He added that the prime minister had “been warned for months about the looming evictions crisis, but stuck his head in the sand”, and he called for Section 21 evictions to be scrapped, as the government has promised.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank also said the government should go further and extend the ban for six months.

“Today’s announcement provides renters with some breathing space. However, we know they are more likely to have been adversely affected by Covid-19,” said Luke Murphy, IPPR associate director.

“Even now, the government is withdrawing measures of support for private renters sooner than they are for landlords, who can obtain a mortgage holiday until the end of October.

“Ministers must step in and extend the ban on evictions for another six months if they are to prevent a potential surge in homelessness.”

The Lib Dems and Greens said the extension did not go far enough.

Housing charities welcomed the move but said more needed to be done. Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity Shelter, said the government had “dodged a bullet” on homelessness and that it “must use this short window of time wisely to put proper safeguards in place for renters”.

The Independent reported this week on families hit by the economic effects of the pandemic and who are set to be made homeless when the ban ends.

Ghazal Haqani, an organiser with the London Renters Union, said: “This U-turn has been forced through by people power. But until there’s a permanent evictions ban and rent debt is forgiven, the government will just be kicking the can down the road.

“We’ve had a series of short-term extensions, and that’s caused enormous misery and stress for renters like me. Because so many of us are in arrears, we have been constantly worried for months that we are about to become totally defenceless against landlords who want to kick us out of our homes. It looks like that could happen all over again in September.

“Rents have been sky-high for decades; the pandemic has cut our incomes, and this recession has only just begun. Of course we’re in arrears, and of course we’re not going to be able to pay off our rent debt for a very long time.”

One group not pleased by the announcement was the National Residential Landlords Association, which said the extension was “unacceptable”.

Ben Beadle, the organisation’s CEO, said: “An enormous amount of work as gone into finding a balance between supporting tenants who have been affected by the pandemic and preventing significant financial harm to landlords, in accordance with the government’s promise. This announcement satisfies no one.”

Announcing the move, the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, said: “I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of Covid-19. That is why today I am announcing a further four-week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months.

“I am also increasing protections for renters – six-month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.

“However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.”

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