The government has announced a further one-month extension to its ban on evictions until Sunday 20 September after it faced growing pressure to extend the ban.
Announcing the move on Friday 21 August, the housing secretary Robert Jenrick also confirmed the introduction of six-month notice periods for evictions, except in cases of anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse, until at least the end of March 2021.
The government’s U-turn came as campaigners warned that lifting the ban, which had been set to end on Sunday 23 August, risked causing a spike in homelessness as renters who have built up arrears during the COVID-19 lockdown faced the prospect of eviction.
The announcement brings the length of the evictions ban up to six months after it was introduced in March to protect renters from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
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.”
Housing groups and think tanks have welcomed the government’s late move to extend the ban while arguing that more still needs to be done to protect renters.
IPPR called the four-week extension a ‘short-term fix’, suggesting a further six-month extension to the ban and raising Local Housing Allowance to cover average market rents.
Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, said that lifting the ban on evictions will only ‘delay the inevitable’, and called for deeper solutions to homelessness given the work the government has done in housing rough sleepers this summer.
Henderson commented: “Extending the evictions ban to the end of the calendar year, providing grants to tenants to cover the cost of their housing, and funding holistic support for individuals are all things that government can do to prevent an increase in homelessness this winter and keep everyone in for good.”
The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) reacted with fury to the announcement, calling the eleventh-hour extension of the ban ‘unacceptable’.
Ben Beadle, CEO of the NRLA, said: “Landlords have been left powerless in exercising their legal right to deal with significant arrears unrelated to COVID-19, anti-social behaviour and extremely disruptive tenants who make life miserable for their neighbours and housemates.
“Private landlords cannot be expected to foot the bill for government failure. There must now be a plan to support households to pay their bills and to compensate landlords fully for their lost income.”
Image: The housing secretary Robert Jenrick. Credit: Chris McAndrew/Creative Commons.