More than 50,000 private renters across England need new legal protections and emergency financial aid to prevent a rise in homelessness now that the evictions ban has ended, ministers have been warned.
According to the campaign group Generation Rent, as many as 55,000 private renters are thought to have been given an eviction notice between March and August – and to be at risk of eviction as the evictions ban comes to an end today.
Around 200 judges have been given training with housing cases as the courts prepare to deal with the backlog – the government has said that the most serious cases will be prioritised.
But councils fear they will be left to pick up the bill from any increase in homelessness that emerges in the coming months – even though many already operate on strained finances.
Further, campaign groups are warning that thousands of tenants have missed out on new legal protections that slow the eviction process, while others will be evicted because judges are given no discretion in some housing cases.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick promised earlier this year that no renter who had lost income as a result of Coronavirus would lose their home.
However, the economic shock of the pandemic has seen hundreds of thousands of private tenants fall into and build up rent arrears – the issue has prompted an attempt to defeat the government in the Lords later this week.
While anyone served with an eviction notice since the end of August has been given a six-month notice period, anyone who was served a notice from March to August does not have that protection.
The evictions ban was originally due to be lifted at the end of August, before Jenrick confirmed a last-minute one-month extension on the ban.
Councils, charities, and doctors had warned that lifting the ban could spark a wave of homelessness – fears that have once again come to the fore.
Reactions to evictions ban end
Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “More than 300,000 private renters have fallen behind on their rent since the pandemic hit.
“And while some of the short-term protections – like longer notice periods – are welcome, they don’t apply to everyone, nor do they stop people getting deeper into debt.
“If the government is dead set on lifting the evictions ban, then the best shot it can give struggling renters to keep hold of their homes is with emergency funds to clear COVID arrears.”
David Renard, the Conservative leader of Swindon council and the housing spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “Councils will continue to do everything they can to help tenants who are in financial difficulty and cope with the likely increase in those seeking housing support.
“However, they face significant homelessness pressures, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“The government should bring forward its pledge to end ‘no-fault evictions’, as well as commit to maintaining local housing allowance rates at the lowest third of market rents beyond the period it has committed to.”
Housing lawyer Giles Peaker said: “I don’t think that what the government has done frankly satisfies anybody, because landlords are staring at a six-month notice period, which is infuriating them – but nothing is being done to actually deal with the underlying problems.
A spokesperson for the government said: “We’ve taken unprecedented action to support renters by banning evictions for six months, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries.
“To help keep people in their homes over the winter months, we’ve changed the law to increase notice periods to six months and introduced a ‘winter truce’ on the enforcement of evictions for the first time.
“In addition we have put in place a welfare safety net of nearly £9.3bn and increased Local Housing Allowance rates to cover the lowest 30% of market rents.”
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