The Baroness leading the pressure group Generation Rent says the extension of the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions does not go far enough.
Over the weekend the government announced that a ban - already running until February 21 - would be extended yet again until March 31.
But Baroness Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, says: “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.”
Even before the ban extension Generation Rent was claiming that figures from the Ministry of Justice - looking back at court possession cases in the final quarter of 2020 - suggested there would be a “spike of homelessness” when the ban ended.
Baroness Kennedy claimed that in the final quarter of last year courts issued three times as many possession orders where the landlord had not provided a reason as those where the landlord had provided a reason.
She suggested that this contradicted a commitment made by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick in September who said of court possession cases: “Where cases do end up in court, these measures ensure court time is prioritised effectively, that the most egregious cases are dealt with as a priority and that court users – both tenants and landlords – have the additional support they may need.”
Baroness Kennedy claimed many of the cases heard since then have not been egregious.
A statement from Generation Rent issued over the weekend said: “Ministry of Justice figures published on Thursday reveal that between October and December 2020, there were 3,542 claims for possession under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, which requires the landlord to provide valid grounds for eviction. This was 48 per cent higher than the 2,392 Section 21 claims, which do not require a reason.
“Tenants who have been affected by coronavirus can apply to delay the eviction, but they cannot have a Section 21 claim thrown out.
“In the same quarter, courts in England granted 406 possession orders under Section 8 but 1,289 orders under Section 21 – three times as many. A total of 346 households were physically evicted, 189 under Section 8 and 157 under Section 21.
Enforcement of possession orders is currently paused for all but the most severe cases until 21 February, but tenants being evicted on no-fault grounds could face homelessness as soon as March.”
Last week the National Residential Landlords Association suggested that the Ministry of Justice figures proved just the opposite when it came to evictions.
And responding to the latest extension of the ban, NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle says: “The 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.”
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