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Labour calls for emergency legislation to stop wave of evictions when coronavirus protection ends

Exclusive: Party says hundreds of thousands at risk of losing homes when moratorium expires on 20 September

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 02 September 2020 17:29 BST

Labour is calling on the government urgently to force through emergency legislation to stop ‘no fault’ evictions to prevent hundreds of thousands of people being put at risk of losing their homes at the end of this month.

A ban on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic was extended by a month last week, amid fears that tenants who have fallen behind on rent during lockdown could be removed by landlords. And housing secretary Robert Jenrick said he would also require landlords to provide six months’ notice in most cases.

But shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said that the delay had done little more than give renters “a few more weeks to pack their bags”.

She has written to Mr Jenrick calling for a change in the law in the coming days to protect them from automatic eviction and promising Labour’s co-operation to rush the measure through.

The Conservative manifesto for last year’s general election included a promise to end so-called Section 21 no-fault evictions, but legislation has not yet been put through parliament.

In her letter, Ms Debbonaire wrote: “Renters need urgent clarity on what the minister’s plans are going forward and how any legislation will be passed in the time available.

“The government has given itself only twelve sitting days before the extension ends on 20 September. The opposition stands ready to work with the government on both the drafting of the bill and its passage through parliament. In order to do this, we must have clarity in the coming days.”

Ms Debbonaire called on Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to take the opportunity on Thursday, in his regular statement to the Commons on upcoming business, to announce a timetable for fast-tracked legislation.

She called on Mr Jenrick to share any data the government has collected on the numbers of household potentially facing homelessness when the ban is lifted.

Commenting on the letter, she said: ““The government has been warned for months about the looming evictions crisis. People living in rented accommodation should not be paying the price for this government’s incompetence.

“Unless the government brings forward legislation to protect renters or extends the eviction ban again, hundreds of thousands of tenants are at risk in the lead-up to Christmas.”

In addition to legislative changes, Labour has called for changes to Universal Credit and an uplift in housing support to prevent people falling into arrears, and called on the Government to keep their promise that “no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home”.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said: “We remain committed to abolishing Section 21 and will bring forward legislation in due course to deliver a better deal for renters and a fairer more effective rental market.

“The government has already taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic by banning evictions, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries.

“We are also giving tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with six months’ notice, in all cases bar those raising serious issues such anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until the end of March.”

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