THE Government has failed the nation’s renters, industry figures have warned, as Shelter claims up to 20,000 evictions could still go ahead despite supposed legislative protections.
Last week, faced with the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic on jobs and earnings, the Government vowed to introduce emergency legislation to protect social and private tenants from the risk of losing their homes. It set out to suspend all new evictions, effectively giving tenants who find themselves struggling to pay their rent, three months grace.
In effect, the legislation extends the period that landlords must give tenants before they can evict them through a court process from two months to three.
However, the charity Shelter says this does not go far enough to keep people safely at home during the coronavirus crisis. The issue flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s announcement of a national emergency yesterday evening, where he placed the country in lockdown and ordered people to remain in their homes, except for limited essential reasons such as a food shop.
Furthermore, Shelter warns that renters with an existing eviction case already in progress in the courts – it estimates 20,000 cases – could still be legally evicted and lose their home in the next three months.
“Last week the Government’s commitment to a temporary ban on evictions made renters across the country feel safer in their homes. But today’s watered-down measures risk homelessness and uncertainty at this worrying time,” said Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive.
“For the next three months as many as 20,000 eviction proceedings already in progress will go ahead, and eviction notices will continue to land on renter’s doormats. This means people trying to isolate or socially distance, and even some within the shielded group, could still lose their home in the coming weeks, and even more may face eviction by mid-June.
“It defies belief that while so much effort is going into a coordinated medical response to this pandemic, the Government is prepared to allow so many evictions to continue – putting at risk not just those losing their homes, but also the people they are forced into contact with.
“This emergency legislation must not continue in its current form. We need a wholesale and complete halt to all evictions so that no one is left without a home during this public health emergency. Anything less is a huge risk we do not need to take.”
Labour’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey also piled in, accusing Boris Johnson of breaking his promise to renters.
“This is not an evictions ban, as Labour argued for, and renters were eventually promised by Boris Johnson. This legislation does not stop people losing their homes as a result of coronavirus, it just gives them some extra time to pack their bags,” he added.
“It beggars belief that the Government is not willing to make this simple change. We even wrote to Ministers to give them the legislation that would provide the protections renters need: to ban evictions and suspend rental payments beyond the crisis. This is the help already promised for struggling homeowners from Government and mortgage lenders.
“Coronavirus is a public health emergency, it need not become a crisis of housing and homelessness too. But this will happen if the Government continues to refuse to take the most basic steps to keep people in their homes.”