In March, the Government paused all evictions for three months, pledging that no renter would lose their home as a result of coronavirus. Recently, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick extended the ban for a further two months, stating that ” no-one will be evicted from their home this summer.” This wouldn’t have happened without people like you. Thousands of people emailed their MP, shared their story of renting in the pandemic, or volunteered their time to help out with the campaign. Renters made headlines, and even quizzed the Government directly at the daily press conference. Together, we forced the Government to listen.
The extension of the ban is welcome relief for the renters who were worried about losing their homes at the end of this month, but what happens when summer, and the ban, ends?
The eviction ban has prevented thousands of homelessness cases in the middle of a public health crisis. But it’s not a permanent solution. Renters’ incomes have been hit hard by this crisis, and many are worried about the future. Suspending eviction proceedings is no substitute for genuine security. The Government pledged to end unfair evictions for good over a year ago, and their public consultation ended 8 months ago, but legislation is yet to materialise. Housing Minister Chris Pincher this week refused to fast track legislation, arguing that it needed to be introduced in a ‚Äòsafe, sustained and sensible’ way. Thanks to the Government’s lack of action, millions of tenants will face eviction in the Autumn, whether or not they have done anything wrong.
The Government must use this time to permanently end unfair evictions. Until long-term reform has been implemented, protections from eviction should remain in place to prevent renters who have lost income from also losing their homes.
We are calling on the Government to:
- End unfair evictions. Permanently ban Section 21 evictions through passing the Renters Reform Bill no later than 23 February – 6 months after the ban ends. Until the Renters Reform Bill is implemented and in effect, the Government must extend the ban on Section 21 evictions, through amending the legislation in the Coronavirus Act. Landlords wishing to evict tenants for legitimate reasons will be able to use the at fault grounds. Landlords wishing to sell the property could do so with tenants in situ, or once the tenant had chosen to leave. Preventing new evictions would help address the backlog of cases that the court system will face once the eviction ban is lifted.
- Prevent evictions for rent arrears. Amend Section 8 to state that arrears built up due to coronavirus (from March 2020) are not ‚Äòlegally due’ and cannot be used as grounds for eviction. This would prevent those who have lost income from also losing their home.
- Give judges powers to protect tenants. For all other possession cases, including notices that have already been served, and cases where the tenant may be at fault, the Government should introduce guidance that enables judges to consider if coronavirus is a factor in individual cases, and if all other routes to avoid eviction have been taken once the ban is lifted.
Now that we are moving from crisis towards recovery, the Government urgently needs to address the growing rent debt crisis. At least half a million rented households are in debt, and our coronavirus survey found that a third of renters were very worried about their ability to pay rent in the coming months. The benefits system doesn’t cover average rents, and around a million people have been left out of Government support schemes. The coronavirus debt crisis is likely to get worse before it gets better, with the furlough scheme set to wind down in autumn, and rents at an all time high. Renters were already spending more on average than homeowners, and should not be expected to shoulder the burden of the pandemic any longer.
We’ll be working hard to ensure protection from rent debt is top of the agenda in the coming months. Join us to make sure you receive the latest campaign updates, and together we can make the case for a housing system that protects renters during and after covid-19.
If you’re worried about the impact of coronavirus on your housing situation, we’ve collected the latest advice and resources here.