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Government plan ‘rewards rent dodgers’

Written by: Emma Lunn
New regulations mean tenants can build almost 18 months of rent arrears without fear of eviction, say landlords.

Earlier this month the government said renters would be protected during the second lockdown with no bailiff enforcement action, except for the most ‘egregious cases’.

It has now published new coronavirus regulations which set out the narrow circumstances under which evictions can take place.

The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 stops tenants from being evicted in all but a few circumstances.

The rules say that until 11 January 2021, possession orders by the courts related to rent arrears can only be enforced where the arrears amount to nine months or more of rent built before 23 March. Any rent arrears accrued since then would be disregarded.

This means that some tenants could be almost 18 months in arrears before being evicted. Tenants can also be evicted if they are guilty of anti-social behaviour.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) says this does nothing to address housing debt accrued since the beginning of the pandemic. The landlord body argues that this is a missed opportunity to help those tenants in financial difficulty due to Covid-19.

Ben Beadle, NRLA chief executive, said: “In trying to arrive at a compromise the government has failed to help those in genuine need whilst rewarding those whose arrears have nothing to do with the pandemic, and in some cases are wilfully not paying their rent.

“This is doing nothing to help those tenants who are trying to do the right thing and seeking to pay off their debts.

“Instead of prolonging the problem with short-term fixes, the government needs to urgently bring in a financial package to enable tenants to pay off rent arrears.”

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