Renters will be protected from being evicted from their homes during the new national lockdown, the government has confirmed.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has confirmed that evictions will not be enforced until at least 11 January 2021 to protect renters while the current national COVID-19 restrictions are in place.
This protection will be extended to all tenants except to those who have shown anti-social behaviour or have perpetrated domestic abuse in social housing.
The government has also extended the six-month notice periods introduced earlier this year so renters served their notice now can stay in their homes until May 2021.
The housing secretary Robert 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.”
The new guidance comes after the government came under growing pressure to reinstate the ban on evictions it introduced earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ban introduced in March ended in September after two extensions, but campaigners warned that failing to bring the ban back could push struggling renters ‘over the edge’ into homelessness.
The government has confirmed that the only circumstances in which the new protections do not apply to renters are illegal occupation, fraud, antisocial behaviour, domestic abuse, and where a property is unoccupied following a tenant’s death.
The government has also confirmed that it intends to introduce an exemption for ‘extreme’ pre-COVID rent arrears.
While bailiff enforcement will be discouraged, courts will remain open to hear possession cases, with cases involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes set to be prioritised, the government has said.
With the new coronavirus restrictions coming into force yesterday (Thursday 5 November 2020), the government has put other support packages in place to help those whose finances have been hit by the pandemic, such as the extension of the furlough scheme to the end of March 2021.