Government faces growing pressure to reinstate evictions ban

Housing campaigners have urged the government to reinstate its evictions ban with England set to enter a second national lockdown tomorrow.
The government’s evictions ban earlier this year led to a dramatic drop in homelessness between April and June 2020. Credit: Needpix.

Housing campaigners have urged the government to reinstate its evictions ban with England set to enter a second national lockdown tomorrow.

The government introduced the ban on new evictions back in March as it sought to protect renters during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, temporarily preventing landlords from taking legal action against tenants and from repossessing their homes.

The ban ended in September after two extensions, although the housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced new six-month notice periods for evictions until at least March next year.

Industry bodies like the think tank IPPR and the housing charity Shelter have now called for the ban to be reintroduced for a further six months, along with additional financial support to help renters clear ‘COVID arrears’.

They have warned that the forthcoming second lockdown could push private renters ‘over the edge’ into homelessness if they are not sufficiently protected.

Jonathan Webb, research fellow at IPPR, said: “A new national lockdown has arrived at a time when many renters are already struggling to make ends meet. The previous approach of providing different local guidance on possessions must now give way to a national strategy to prevent evictions.

“The government must put in place an immediate six-month evictions ban to provide renters with the security they need. It must act now to avoid a new surge in homelessness this winter and ensure homelessness does not rise in the future as a consequence of the pandemic.”

Homelessness dropped dramatically across England earlier this year as a result of the ban on evictions and the government’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme, which saw councils told to find safe accommodation for rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness.

Recent government data revealed that the number of people owed a homelessness duty from their council between April and June 2020 was down 11% from the same time last year.

This drop was linked to a 69% year-on-year decrease in the number of households served section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notices by their landlords – a direct result of the evictions ban.

Shelter research earlier this year estimated that 227,000 renters – 3% of all adult private renters – have fallen into arrears since the start of the pandemic, leaving them at risk of losing their homes through section 8 eviction notices.

While the government announced this past weekend that mortgage payment holidays will continue for a further six months, it has so far failed to commit to extending the evictions ban.

Following the prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of a second lockdown starting this Thursday, the shadow housing secretary, Labour’s Thangam Debonnaire, commented: “Where is the support for people renting their own home?

“We need the restoration of the evictions ban, lifting local housing allowance to average rents, better provision of Universal Credit and scrapping Section 21 and Section 8 arrears evictions at least till this is over.”

A government spokesperson said it has taken ‘unprecedented’ measures to protect tenants during the pandemic, which remain in place.

“Landlords must give six months’ notice for all but the most serious eviction cases – such as those involving domestic abuse – and we’ve taken action to prevent people getting into financial hardship by helping businesses to pay salaries, extending the furlough scheme, and boosting the welfare safety net by over £9 billion,” the spokeperson said.

“We keep these measures under constant review,” the spokesperson added.

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