Ministers have been warned of a “wave of homelessness” across England as the government confirmed rental evictions can resume from the end of August.
In a move that will cause concern ahead of a looming recession, housing minister Lord Greenhalgh outlined on Wednesday that from 24 August landlords will be able to seek possession of properties in the courts.
It comes after the government introduced a moratorium on eviction cases ahead of the coronavirus lockdown in March – a measure that was extended by two months in June – to stop people becoming homeless during the crisis.
In recent months, there have also been repeated warnings that thousands of individuals who have fallen into rent arrears during the pandemic are at risk of losing their homes when the suspension on rental evictions ends.
In response to a parliamentary written question, Lord Greenhalgh, a housing minister, said: “On the 5 June the government announced that the current suspension of evictions from social or private rented accommodation will be extended by two months until 23 August 2020.
“From 24 August 2020, the courts will begin the process possession cases again. This is an important step towards ending the lockdown and will protect landlords’ important right to regain their property.
“Work is underway with the judiciary, legal representatives and the advice sector on arrangements, including new rules, to ensure that judges have all the information necessary to make just decisions and that the most vulnerable tenants can get the help they need when possession cases resume.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran branded the decision to end the suspension in August as “heartless” and urged the government to introduce greater support to help those struggling to pay rent.
“The idea that the government want to re-start evictions in the midst of a pandemic is unthinkable,” she added. “This threatens a wave of homelessness in towns up and down the country, which added to that the threat of local lockdowns could create a toxic cocktail for the disease to thrive.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “Private renting can be deeply unstable at the best of times, but the Covid-19 crisis has left many people drowning financially. Thousands of renters are already calling our emergency helpline terrified at the prospect of becoming homeless.
“When the evictions ban lifts on 23 August, those who’ve fallen behind on their rent risk automatically losing their homes – and judges would have no way to stop it under the current rules. But the government can step in and defuse this ticking timebomb of homelessness if it wants to.
“Before parliament breaks for the summer, the government must give judges the power to consider the impact of the pandemic when deciding if a renter should be evicted. It must also increase benefit levels to cover average rents and lift the benefit cap, so people can access the financial support they need to weather this storm.”
But the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) chief executive Ben Beadle welcomed the move, adding: “The minister’s comments provide greater certainty for the rental market.
“We continue to work hard with landlords and tenants to sustain tenancies wherever possible. In the vast majority of cases this is happening.
“It is vital however that swift action can be take against those tenants committing anti-social behaviour or domestic violence. We are calling also for priority to be given to case where possession orders were granted prior to lockdown or where rent arrears have nothing to do with the Covid pandemic."
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