Ban all evictions now

The government has reneged on its commitment to ban all evictions during coronavirus crisis

The government announced that “as a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction”. We were told there was going to be a ban on evictions for 3 months, though it might be extended.

On the 18th of March during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons, Boris Johnson said that legislation will be brought forward to protect people who are unable to pay their rent during the coronavirus crisis. Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said:

“The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.
These are extraordinary times, and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage. Which is why we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started.”

However, with the publishing of the emergency Bill the government has reneged on that commitment. Inside Housing reported that the Bill only amends previous legislation such that a landlord can get possession after three months instead of two. For many renters this would simply mean that they could be evicted in June. It does nothing to secure the position of those tenants already threatened with eviction, or those whose landlord moving against them before the bill comes into force.

To proceed with evictions under the current circumstances is inhumane to say the least. MP Matt Western tweeted about a 76 year old woman given an eviction notice which means she will have to leave her home in a month. Shelter estimates that there are 20,000 cases of eviction already in process.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said:

“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.  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.”

The measures introduced also make no provision for the arrears renters may accumulate in the economic turmoil resulting from the coronavirus shutdown, despite the offer of a three-month mortgage holiday to buy-to-let landlords.

Caitlin Wilkinson of Generation Rent said:

“Many renters will end up with thousands of pounds worth of debt and no means of paying it off. Landlords and tenants are expected to ‘work together’ to find a solution to suit both parties from June onwards – but there’s absolutely nothing to stop landlords from evicting tenants if they can’t pay.”

Speaking in parliament shadow housing minister Sarah Jones said: “It would be frankly disgraceful for ministers to have promised one thing last week and to have misled renters with a promise to ban evictions, when the reality is nothing like that.”

In a blog summarising the measures, housing lawyer Giles Peaker wrote:

“There is no address to the issue of coronavirus related rent arrears, none at all. As this proposed legislation stands, any tenant accruing rent arrears because of the impact of coronavirus (not being able to work, losing their job, self isolating etc) could face immediate possession proceedings three months after the service of a notice seeking possession. One has to expect a tidal wave of possession claims down the line.”

The government has left in place Section 21 (no fault) evictions despite the fact that they announced they were going to scrap them. To leave them in place during the economic meltdown of the coronavirus crisis means that it will cause even more damage than it does in the normal course of events. So why haven’t they included that in the emergency legislation?

Please contact your MP to demand

  • that there is an absolute ban on evictions now, including cases in process, and
  • the promised end of section 21 evictions is introduced now.

Martin Wicks

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