The government’s announcement at the end of next week that almost no evictions would be possible before January 11 at the earliest has received a hostile welcome from activists at the Generation Rent campaign.
Baroness Alicia Kennedy, director of the group, says: "The government had an opportunity to protect renters from losing their homes, and have instead chosen not to act. 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.”
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick last week said that bailiffs would not be enforcing possession notices until January 11, with the only exceptions being “the most egregious cases” including where tenants have demonstrated anti-social behaviour or are the perpetrator of domestic abuse in social housing, and the landlord rightly would like to re-let their property to another tenant. Large scale arrears accumulated before the Coronavirus will also be an appropriate reason for an eviction to go ahead.
Courts will remain open throughout the lockdown with the COVID-safe rules and procedures introduced in September. These include the strict prioritisation of cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes.
However, the Generation Rent director says government measures to protect the vast majority of renters do not go far enough.
“The furlough scheme has been extended, mortgage holidays have been extended. Why then, have the government failed to extend protections against eviction?” she asks.
“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” Baroness Kennedy insists.