The government has extended its ban on bailiff evictions for a further six weeks to support renters during the current national lockdown restrictions.
The ban, originally set to end on 21 February 2021, will now remain in place until 31 March 2021 with measures to be kept under review in line with public health advice, ministers say.
The move to stop social and private landlords from evicting tenants was introduced to protect renters at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has since been renewed several times.
Exemptions do remain to the ban in the most serious circumstances such as in cases of illegal occupation, anti-social behaviour, and domestic abuse in social housing.
The housing secretary Robert Jenrick MP 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.
“Our measures strike the right balance between protecting tenants and enabling landlords to exercise their right to justice.”
The measures form part of a wider support package the government has provided to try to protect renters from the pandemic’s economic impact, such as introducing a temporary uplift in Universal Credit which social landlords have asked the government to retain.
Landlords are still required to give tenants six months’ notice before starting possession proceedings except in the most serious cases, meaning that renters can now stay in their homes until at least August 2021. Court rules introduced last September to support tenants and landlords also remain in place and under review.
This month, the government launched a new free mediation pilot to help landlords and tenants resolve disputes before they reach the courts and hopefully keep more people in their homes.
The number of evictions has drastically reduced as a result of the government’s measures. Court applications for repossession by landlords went down by 67% between October and December last year compared to the same period in 2019, while the number of repossessions dropped by 93% year-on-year. Only 548 repossessions were recorded between April and December last year compared to over 20,000 in the year before.
Polly Neate, chief executive of the homeless charity Shelter, welcomed the short extension to the ban but said it is “not an answer” to the country’s wider evictions crisis.
Neate said: “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.”