The government has announced that the coronavirus moratorium on evictions of tenants set to end on Monday is now being extended until “at least” February 21st as England is under a new lockdown.
According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the ‘stay’ on bailiff evictions will be kept in place “for at least six weeks” further for all except “the most egregious cases”.
Robert Jenrick said: “At the start of this pandemic we made sure that the most vulnerable in society were protected. This winter, we are continuing in this vein and redoubling our efforts to help those most in need.”
Responding to the announcement, Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire said: “The government’s last minute U-turn is not good enough. The virus is more rampant than ever before, yet the government action does not measure up to what was done in March.
“The money for homelessness will not get everyone off the streets. The ban on bailiffs does not protect people from eviction.
“After almost a year of economic hardship, hundreds of thousands of renters are already behind on their rent and household bills. The government must keep its promise that nobody will lose their home because of coronavirus.”
The move has also been criticised by the London Renters Union, which said: “Landlords will still be able to drag the 840,000 people in rent debt due to the pandemic through the courts.
“That’s so they can prepare to kick renters out of their homes, as soon as it becomes legal again… We need a permanent eviction ban, and we need rent debt cancelled, now.”
Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, similarly pointed out: “Landlords can still serve notice and courts continue to hear cases, putting pressure on renters to move out before the bailiffs arrive, putting their health at risk.”
Boris Johnson told the House of Commons earlier this week that the ban was “under review”, but offered no further details as to when or how the temporary measures might be put in place or for how long.
All ‘Section 21′ evictions are currently on hold, and renters can only be evicted by court bailiffs due to antisocial behaviour, illegal occupation, fraud, perpetrators of domestic abuse in social housing or extreme rent arrears.
Eviction orders can still be granted and it has been confirmed today that the courts will continue to prioritise cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation or domestic abuse.
While landlords continue to be required to give six-month notice periods to tenants until at least March 31st except in the most serious circumstances, a new mediation pilot will begin for those facing potential eviction.
The pilot “will offer mediation as part of the possession process to try and help landlords and tenants to reach a mutual agreement and keep people in their homes”, the government has announced.
But it was reported by the i this week that the government is not planning to restart the ‘Everyone In’ scheme brought in during the first lockdown to accommodate rough sleepers in emergency housing.
Jenrick revealed today that instead all councils in England are being “asked to redouble their efforts” to accommodate rough sleepers during the pandemic, as well as ensure they are registered with a GP.
Labour leader Keir Starmer commented: “This is shocking, and extremely irresponsible. The government has asked everyone to stay at home – while turning their back on people without a home. This inhumanity will cost lives.”
Reacting to the lockdown earlier this week, Thangam Debbonaire said: “The government has asked us to stay at home. They now need to renew their commitment from March that everyone will have a safe and secure home to shelter in.”
Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary added: “That means a ban on evictions, a national effort to get everybody off the streets, and keeping their promise that nobody will lose their home because of coronavirus.”
The Scottish SNP government announced on Thursday that the temporary ban on eviction orders there, due to end on January 22nd, would be extended until the end of March for those under level 3 and 4 Covid restrictions.