A campaign has been launched calling on the housing minister to protect renters during the coronavirus crisis by further extending the eviction ban.
The eviction ban in England and Wales will be suspended on Sunday 23 August after an initial ban was introduced in March amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.
But with just days left until the protection runs out, homelessnes charity Shelter has launched a campaign calling on the housing minister to step in and protect people from losing their homes.
It is looking to send 10,000 emails to Robert Jenrick, urging the government not to end the temporary eviction ban.
The Shelter eviction ban campaign page stated that the coronavirus outbreak has lifted the lid on the “failing, unaccountable, and expensive renting system”.
Renters are among the hardest hit by the pandemic gripping the country with around 1.7 million people worried they’ll lose their jobs and face the prospect of not being able to pay their rent. Under current laws, they could also lose their home.
Shelter said that while the government has brought in some protections for renters, Universal Credit won’t cover most people’s rent.
“Right now, tenants are falling into debt because of coronavirus – and if the government doesn’t act now, these renters could be evicted once the ban ends.
“Together, we can make sure this doesn’t happen. Call on Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to step in and protect renters before they lose their homes,” it stated.
Last month minister Lord Greenhalgh, at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, confirmed there would be no further ban on evictions in response to a series of parliamentary questions.
After a five-month suspension, the minister said this would be “an important step towards ending the lockdown and will protect landlords’ important right to regain their property.”
When the extension was announced, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) warned it could result in a “further impetus” to landlords exiting the market.
A Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson, said: “The government has taken unprecedented action to support renters, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries – meaning no tenants have been forced from their home.
“We will give appropriate support to those particularly affected when proceedings start again and we have changed court rules so landlords need to provide more information about their tenants’ situation when seeking an eviction – with judges able to adjourn a case if they don’t.
“Legislation introduced in March requiring landlords to give all tenants three months’ notice will remain for possession cases, including section 21 evictions, until September 30.’’
Change in law needed
Under the current rules judges have to grant a possession order – leading to the eviction of the tenant – if landlords use what is known as ground 8 when a tenant falls two months behind with their rent, no matter what the reason.
Alex McMahon, a housing litigation lawyer at London law firm for Osbornes Law is calling for an amendment to Section 8 (Ground 8) notices to allow judges to hear the reasons why the tenant fell behind.
The judge can then have the discretion as to whether it is reasonable to make a possession order.
He said: “Thousands of people who are under threat of losing their homes are in this position because they have lost their jobs because of coronavirus.
“Under the current law, if a landlord relies on Ground 8 judges have no discretion over whether they grant possession orders if the tenant is 2 months or more in arrears, and that is clearly wrong in the middle of a global pandemic. I don’t think the government has thought about this and I would urge them to do so immediately.
“Of course, what would be even better is for there to be an extension to the current stay as more people are expected to lose their jobs and fall into financial hardship in the coming months. There will be more and more evictions as a result.”
However, Chris Norris, policy director for the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “Extending the ban on repossessions is not necessary. Our research clearly shows that the vast majority of landlords and tenants are working together constructively to sustain tenancies wherever possible.
“We need the courts to deal with cases where tenants are committing anti-social behaviour or where there are long-standing rent arrears that have nothing to do with the pandemic.
“Over the last five months landlords have been powerless to take any action against those who cause misery for fellow tenants and neighbours.”