Evictions of renters should not be allowed during lockdown, Government warned

Charities have called for the Government to ensure people cannot be evicted from their homes during the lockdown.

Generation Rent said the eviction ban introduced in March ahead of the first lockdown last year should be reinstated to protect renters during the restrictions.

The six-month ban, which expired in September, meant that landlords could not start legal proceedings to evict tenants.

At the beginning of the November lockdown, the Government announced new protections for renters to prevent evictions during these restrictions and beyond Christmas – except in the most serious circumstances.

It said courts would stay open but evictions would not be enforced by bailiffs until January 11 – next Monday.

The Government said the only exceptions would be the “most egregious cases” where tenants have committed anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse in social housing.

Bailiffs must give people 14 days’ notice, which means that some renters could be forced out of their homes as soon January 25 if this protection is not extended.

The Government said it is reviewing current measures and will provide more details shortly.

But the groups said simply extending the ban on bailiff action is not enough, as courts are still hearing cases and many people served with an eviction notice will feel pressure to leave their home before bailiffs get involved.

They are calling for the Government to reinstate the initial ban, saying it is too dangerous for people to lose “their only refuge” from rising Covid-19 cases.

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “The rapid escalation of Covid-19 cases due to the spread of the new variant means we must do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus.

“During the first lockdown, renters who had received an eviction notice still felt pressure to move out, which is why we’re calling on the Government to do all it can to prevent unnecessary house moves by suspending evictions.

“The Government must also stop landlords from issuing eviction notices in the first place.

“Since the first lockdown there are many more people who are out of work so relying on Universal Credit rather than furlough. That means a lot of people are facing a shortfall on their rent – we need the Government to prevent them from falling into rent debt.”

In addition to the current ban on bailiff action, landlords seeking to evict tenants must give them six months’ notice until the end of March.

This means anyone served notice now will be able to stay in their homes until July, but notice periods issued earlier will expire sooner.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “We are now back in the same, if not worse, situation as last March. It is just too dangerous to start evicting people from their homes with Covid case numbers so high.

“You cannot follow the order to stay at home if you are evicted and facing homelessness. It’s not safe for people to attend court, nor is it safe for bailiffs to enter people’s homes and forcibly remove them. There aren’t enough genuinely affordable homes for people to move elsewhere, and councils will not be able to cope with an even longer queue of homeless households.

“Simply put, the Government needs to stop evictions. We all know the country is facing some of the toughest weeks ahead, the Prime Minister has said so himself. Now is not the time for people to lose their homes – their only refuge from this raging storm.”

Paul Noblet, head of public affairs at Centrepoint, said the Government must provide renters with the “long-term reassurance they need” for as long as it takes to roll out vaccinations across the country.

He added that last minute decisions from the Government on extending protections have “become torture” for renters struggling during the pandemic.

He said: “With thousands of renters facing another lockdown on the edge of financial disaster, the lack of clarity for those potentially facing eviction is completely unnecessary and is taking a toll on people’s mental health.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are reviewing the measures currently in place and will provide more detail shortly, taking into account public health advice.”