Lifting of eviction ban 'could have devastating consequences'

By Agencies
September 21, 2020

Following a four week extension, the ban on rental evictions was lifted on Sunday 20 September 2020. Peter Tutton, Head of Policy at debt charity StepChange, said that without affordable options to address renters’ arrears, a sharp rise in homelessness is an all too real possibility.

“Last month’s eviction ban extension was a critical opportunity for Ministers to heed concerns raised across the advice sector about the risks of a wave of evictions for coronavirus-related rent arrears. At the time we urged the Government to implement a statutory pre-action protocol, which gives courts discretion in cases where arrears have built up as a result of the pandemic. We also called for an acceleration of plans to end Section 21 no-fault evictions to prevent landlords being able to evade protections.

“However the past month has seen little meaningful change, and the delay in lifting the ban appears to have been no more than a stay of execution. New research from StepChange shows that up to 206,000 people who’ve been affected by coronavirus are currently behind on their rent in the UK and, with the economic fallout from the pandemic set to continue to devastate people’s finances, a sharp rise in homelessness is an all too real possibility unless renters are given the affordable options they need to address arrears.

“The Government must step up to amend the Housing Act to ensure no one in rent arrears and affected by coronavirus is subject to a mandatory eviction order by the courts. We understand that in many cases, people won’t be able to clear arrears built up in the pandemic in a way that works with the financial pressures Covid may be exerting on small landlords. That’s why the Government must implement a National Recovery Fund to provide grants and loans to help those struggling with arrears and debt due to COVID-19 keep their homes.”

Also commenting on the end of the ban on evictions for renters in England and Wales, the British Medical Association's board of science chair, Professor Dame Parveen Kumar said: “At a time when a significant number of people are facing economic uncertainty or have lost their jobs, lifting the eviction ban could have devastating consequences, placing many people at risk of becoming homeless.

“With the number of cases rising rapidly and as we enter the winter months, it is vital that people have a safety net so they do not end up without stable accommodation, or even on the streets.

“The Government must do more to identify those at risk and ensure that they are given the support they need. For those that are currently homeless, there needs to be adequate funding to ensure their placement into suitable and safe accommodation, alongside access to healthcare services.

“In the midst of a pandemic, the homeless population are particularly vulnerable to both contracting and dying from the virus and so need greater protection. We have an unnecessary and shameful homelessness problem in the UK, and with a vaccination still a long way off the Government must not allow more people to slip through the cracks.

“The Government must enact emergency legislation to enable everyone either sleeping rough, or who is homeless and cannot self-isolate, or at risk of these eventualities, to have access to safe accommodation. Those at risk will undoubtedly be incredibly concerned about what the future holds in store.”

* StepChange https://www.stepchange.org/

* British Medical Association https://www.bma.org.uk/

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