Coronavirus: ‘Record number of tenants’ being thrown out after government refuses to backdate evictions ban

‘We have appointed new agents to cope with the rapid increase in evictions’, whistleblowing email reveals

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 26 March 2020 13:05 GMT
Coronavirus in numbers

An evictions firm says it is taking on extra staff to kick out “a record number of tenants” – after protests that Boris Johnson broke his promise of a ban.

Labour said the revelation proved the coronavirus legislation passed – which fails to stop notices being sent out and leaves up to 20,000 renters at risk of losing their homes, because it is not backdated – is woefully inadequate.

Instead, a bar on court proceedings only kicks in now, and landlords can still inform tenants of an intention to evict them after late June, forcing many to prepare to move out.

Now a whistleblowing email from a property management company, seen by The Independent, appears to lay bare how the emergency law is failing to stem evictions.

It states: “We own a business which has a department where we evict private and commercial tenants when court orders have been gained.

“We are evicting a record number of both private and commercial tenants with 138 evictions today. We are aware of the same actions across the country.”

The company said the government had not made it aware of “any restrictions or official advice since the Covid-19 pandemic was announced” – and had received no response to requests for it.

“We have appointed new agents to cope with the rapid increase in evictions,” it states.

And it warns: “Estate agents, property management agents and landlords are very keen to evict tenants as they need the rent paid in full during these difficult times.”

John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “This underlines why ministers must do much more to keep their pledge to ban evictions.

“The government must now urgently give renters a guarantee they will not lose their home as a result of coronavirus, by strengthening the safety net for households who have their hours cut or lose their job.”

The Independent asked the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – on Tuesday – to explain why eviction notices have not been banned, or the legislation backdated, but has not received a response.

The evictions come despite Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, saying last week: “No renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.”

The housing charity Shelter has warned eviction notices for June “will continue to drop on doorsteps” – including high-risk people told to “shield themselves” at home.

Mr Healey is calling for a package of help for renters, warning 6 million have no savings to fall back on and are particularly vulnerable to a loss of income during the crisis.

As well as a suspension of rents, he urged ministers to double emergency payments to allow councils to cover and for higher benefit rates to cover average rents in each area.

“After a decade of cuts, our housing safety net is already letting renters slip through the gaps,” Mr Healey said.

“It is not fit for purpose for the period we now face when family finances will be under extra pressure.”

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