Data from homelessness charity Shelter reveals that 227,000 private renters have fallen into arrears since the pandemic and could lose their homes when the ban on evictions is lifted this Sunday.
Labour is calling for the ban on evictions to be extended to avoid a “homelessness crisis” and for the government to fulfil its manifesto promise to abolish Section 21 evictions, so-called ‘no-fault evictions’ in which a tenant can be evicted by a landlord without a given reason.
Last month Steve Sanham, chief executive of Mitheridge Capital Management’s residential development arm Kin, told Property Week that the UK was likely to see an evictions crisis when the government lifted its protection for tenants. This would lead to a “huge demand” for affordably priced homes and exacerbate the ongoing shortage, he warned.
Meanwhile, the Residential Landlords Association has said that any extension to the residential eviction ban “should not be used as an excuse for those with the means but who choose not to pay their rent”.
Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “The Housing Secretary promised no-one would lose their home because of coronavirus. But the financial chaos of Covid-19 means that many private renters are in danger of being evicted when the current ban lifts. Unless he acts now, he will break his promise and put thousands of renters at risk of homelessness.
“We know people have been doing whatever they can to pay their rent and keep their home safe. Despite this, the minute the evictions ban lifts, the 230,000 already behind with their rent could be up for automatic eviction if they’ve built up eight weeks-worth of arrears. And judges will be powerless to help them. That’s more than the entire population of Portsmouth at risk of losing their homes. And let’s not forget: this pandemic is not over.”
A spokesperson for the Housing, Communities, and Local Government Department said the government had taken “unprecedented action” to support renters during the pandemic and would continue to support those affected when the eviction ban lifts.
“We have changed court rules so landlords need to provide more information about their tenants’ situation when seeking an eviction – with judges able to adjourn a case if they don’t,” the spokesperson said.
New evictions in England and Wales had initially been suspended until 25 June, but this was extended to 23 August.
The Welsh government has doubled the notice period required for evictions issued on or after 24 July to six months, excluding cases relating to anti-social behaviour, and the Scottish government has proposed extending its ban on evicting renters until March 2021.