Eviction ban extended until 31 March
Rules preventing tenants being removed from their homes by bailiffs were introduced at the start of the pandemic. The ban was due to expire on 11 January, then 22 February, but will now remain in place until at least 31 March.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the measures will be kept under review in line with the latest public health advice.
The only tenants that will be allowed to be evicted using bailiffs before 31 March will be those that cause the greatest strain on landlords or residents and neighbours. Exemptions include cases of illegal occupation, anti-social behaviour and arrears of six months’ rent or more.
Landlords are also required to give six-month notice periods to tenants before starting possession proceedings, except in the most serious circumstances. This means that most renters now served notice can stay in their homes until at least August 2021, giving them time to find alternative accommodation.
Jenrick said: “We have taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic including introducing a six-month notice period and financial support to help those struggling to pay their rent.
“By extending the ban on the enforcement of evictions by bailiffs, in all but the most serious cases, we are ensuring renters remain protected during this difficult time. Our measures strike the right balance between protecting tenants and enabling landlords to exercise their right to justice.”
Court rules and procedures introduced in September to support both tenants and landlords will remain in place and be regularly reviewed. The rules allow courts to prioritise the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation and perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector.
Calls for more support for renters
However, Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, called for more support for both landlords and tenants.
He said: “Today’s announcement does nothing to help over 800,000 private renters who have built rent arrears since lockdown measures started last year. It means debts will continue to mount to the point where they have no hope of paying them off. It will lead eventually to them having to leave their home and face serious damage to their credit scores.
“The government needs to get a grip and do something about the debt crisis renters and landlords are now facing. A package of hardship loans and grants is needed as a matter of urgency. To expect landlords and tenants simply to muddle through without further support is a strategy that has passed its sell by date.”
Tenant campaign groups also called for more support for renters.
Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “It is right that the eviction ban is being renewed while the country remains in lockdown. It would be dangerous to allow people to be made homeless when everyone else is being told to stay at home.
“But courts are still approving eviction claims where the landlord doesn’t need a reason, despite the government’s promise to prioritise only ‘the most egregious cases’. That means a cliff edge for renters who are facing eviction because their landlord is selling up or whose reduced income doesn’t cover the rent.
“We need a Covid Rent Debt Fund to clear the debts of renters whose incomes have been hit by the lockdown, but the government must also suspend ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions so blameless renters don’t lose their homes as a result of the pandemic.”