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Pause on bailiff action to protect renters slammed as ‘weak’

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The government announced renters will be protected during national restrictions with bailiff action banned. But a campaign group has slammed the move as ‘weak’.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced that renters will be protected during national restrictions as bailiff enforcement action will not be able to take place.

Similarly, evictions will also not be enforced by bailiffs until 11 January 2021 at the earliest, except in certain scenarios such as for anti-social behaviour.

Six-month notice periods are still in place which means renters served a notice can stay in their homes until May 2021.

Jenrick said: “We have already 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.

“We are now going further by protecting renters from eviction during the new national restrictions and throughout the Christmas period – with a pause on bailiff activity other than in the most serious circumstances, such as anti-social behaviour or fraud.

“Striking the right balance between helping tenants in need while ensuring landlords have access to justice in the most serious cases.”

Courts will remain open through the new national restrictions. The only circumstances where these protections do not apply are illegal occupation, fraud, anti-social behaviour, eviction of domestic abuse perpetrators in social housing and where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant.

The government added it intends to introduce an exemption for extreme pre-Covid rent arrears.

‘Weak guidance’

Alicia Kennedy, director of campaign group, Generation Rent, said the government had an opportunity to protect renters from losing their homes, and have instead “chosen not to act”.

Kennedy said: “A non-binding pause on bailiff action is completely inadequate. Eviction notices will be dropping through renters’ doors throughout lockdown, and the courts will be open the entire time, putting pressure on renters to move out while the pandemic rages on. Although the government has asked bailiffs not to enforce possession orders, it’s not clear if tenants are legally protected. In the event that a bailiff goes against the guidance, renters will have few options.

“The furlough scheme has been extended, mortgage holidays have been extended. Why then, have the government failed to extend protections against eviction? To keep renters safely in their homes, the government must end section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and evictions for Covid rent arrears, lift the benefit cap and increase Universal Credit to ensure it covers average rents. This weak guidance to bailiffs will not protect the most vulnerable, and simply delays the looming homelessness crisis.”

‘Abuse of protections’

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “The vast majority of landlords who have had tenants affected due to the pandemic have been working constructively to support them. We continue to encourage and support such action.

“However, in a minority of cases renters have abused the protections afforded by the recent ban on repossessions, causing significant hardship. It is therefore important that the government recognises that in the most serious cases enforcement action must continue.”

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