Calls for eviction ban extension amid warning of thousands of renters at risk of homelessness
PUBLISHED: 08:09 21 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:13 21 August 2020
London MPs have joined a call for the ban on evictions which was introduced to protect tenants hit by the coronavirus crisis.
Charities fear thousands of renters could lose their homes around Christmas if the government does not extend judges’ powers to stop automatic evictions.
Renters have been protected during the Covid-19 crisis by a Government ban announced in March, extended in June and due to end on Sunday.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is leading a call by the party to extend the ban, tweeting on Thursday: “Figures released today show the number of homeless children has a hit 14 year high.
“Yet the ban on evictions will be lifted in just three days.
“Boris Johnson needs to get his head out of the sand and extend the ban on evictions, now.”
Camden council leader Georgia Gould and Hackney mayor Philip Glanville were among the Labour local authority chiefs to sign a letter to housing secretary Robert Jenrick, calling for an extension.
Another signatory was Islington leader Cllr Richard Watts, who tweeted: “I’ve joined with other Labour council leaders across the country in calling for the government to immediately extend the ban on evictions. The risk of a wave of evictions is appalling and the last thing we need now - it’s urgent.”
Charities are warning that tens of thousands of outgoing tenants could be unable to find or access affordable homes, prompting a “devastating homelessness crisis”, if the ban is lifted and extra protections aren’t in place.
The British Medical Association has warned of a potential surge in Covid-19 cases if the ban is not extended and homelessness increases, with homeless people more likely to have health conditions increasing their vulnerability.
Shelter said by the end of June some 174,000 renters had been warned by their landlord that they are facing eviction, and 58,000 moved out after being asked to leave during the lockdown.
It estimates almost a quarter of a million renters had fallen behind on their rent by the end of June.
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But the National Residential Landlords Association said it is wrong to assume every tenant in arrears due to Covid-19 is at automatic risk of eviction, and extending the ban is not necessary.
Policy director Chris Norris said landlords “have been powerless to take any action against those who cause misery for fellow tenants and neighbours”.
Court delays mean it is thought the bulk of Covid-19 cases are not likely to take place before the end of October - around the same time the Government’s job retention scheme is due to stop.
Up to half a million people could be at risk of being evicted in the coming months, the District Councils Network (DCN) estimates.
Councillor Giles Archibald, the DCN’s Better Lives spokesman, said: “As the cliff edge nears, little has been done to ensure the welfare system will support those vulnerable families at risk of homelessness, and we are now at the precipice without a plan.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said time is “fast running out” for the Government to act.
Without the ban, any renter who has built up eight weeks’ of arrears can be automatically evicted, she said, with judges “powerless” to intervene.
She told the PA news agency: “The knock-on effect of this will be really severe. It’s not something that we’re going to see next week, but it’s something that we’ll see in the coming months, as winter sets in and around Christmas time. That’s when we could see lots of people being evicted.
“If we’re entering into a deep recession, this is not the time that we want to risk having thousands of people approaching overstretched homelessness services that cannot hope to provide them with the safe homes they’ll need.”
The charity is calling for judges to be given discretion on handling cases involving coronavirus, for the benefits cap to be lifted and for housing allowance to be further increased.
Without action, it warns the country will see rising homelessness “heaped on top of an economic catastrophe”.
A Government spokesman said: “The Government has taken unprecedented action to support renters, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries - meaning no tenants have been evicted at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are working on how best to continue supporting renters and landlords during the pandemic and will make an announcement on the next steps shortly.”
Additional reporting by Jemma Crew, PA social affairs correspondent.
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