Eviction ban for renters 'to be extended' as thousands face losing their homes

A BAN on evictions for renters could be extended after warnings that thousands of tenants could lose their homes.

The government is said to be working on plans to extend the ban, which ends on Monday, until September 20, Sky News reports.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has hinted that an announcement is due today.

He told LBC radio this morning: "I know that getting that balance right between the renters and the landlords is something that my colleagues in the housing ministry are working closely on and I think they will make further announcements about it shortly, which I'm not privy to right now."

Homelessness and debt charities as well as MPs have warned against ending the policy.

Research from debt charity StepChange shows around 590,000 tenants are in rent debt, with an average of £1,076 per household.

Meanwhile housing charity Shelter said 120,000 tenants in rent debt have already been issued an eviction notice – 175,000 of which have been threatened with eviction.

Today, 16 health organisations – including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and the London Renters Union – are calling for the ban to be extended.

Debt collectors: Know your rights

BAILIFFS are allowed to visit debtors' homes again from Monday August 24, 2020, following a temporary ban due to coronavirus.

Here are your rights, according to Citizens Advice:

  • All bailiffs should send you a letter before they visit to check if you're vulnerable because of Covid-19.
  • They should give you at least 30 days' notice if they are collecting debts owed to your council, court fines or child maintenance.
  • They're not allowed to enter your home to take goods – they should only talk to you, collect money or give you documents.
  • They must make sure they are social distancing.
  • If you're vulnerable or in financial hardship caused by the pandemic they must refer you to debt advisers.

If you think debt collectors have broken the rules, or acted aggressively by issuing threats, intimidation, offensive language, or repeatedly visiting, texting or calling you then you should complain to the organisation you owe money to.

Lorraine Charlton, debt expert at Citizens Advice, said: "Complaining won’t cancel your original debt, but it can give you a chance to deal with it in a way that suits you."

In a letter to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, they said: "Until now, the government's temporary ban on eviction and its funding for emergency homelessness support has helped to stave off some of the worst impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Now that these measures are being withdrawn, we are deeply concerned that the government does not have an adequate plan to address the growing rent debt crisis and to prevent a catastrophic wave of evictions and homelessness as we head towards autumn and winter."

The ban, which stops landlords from kicking residents out of their homes if they fall behind on their payments, was introduced during lockdown and is set to end on August 24.

It was previously set to end in June but got extended by another two months to create "certainty and security" during the lockdown.

If you are a private tenant, a landlord can ask you to move out by issuing a Section 21 or Section 8 notice.

A Section 21 notice is commonly referred to as a "no-fault eviction" as landlords don't need to give a reason for asking you to leave your home.

With a Section 8 notice, landlords have to have grounds for kicking you out.

Since the outbreak, the government has amended the two sections, which means that landlords must submit evidence about how their tenants' circumstances may have been affected by coronavirus for a Section 21 notice, otherwise a hearing will be delayed.

For a Section 8, people have a three month notice period until September 30, 2020, if your were told by your landlord on or after March 26 2020. Before it was just two weeks.

Daniel J Carter, a member from health charity Medact, said: "The gap in government's policy to protect renters increases the public health risk.

"If you cannot pay your rent, you may fear eviction. If you fear eviction, you may continue to travel and work.

"If you continue to travel and work, you may inadvertently acquire or spread Covid-19.

"And if enough people continue to spread the virus, a second wave of the
pandemic looks inevitable."

But the National Residential Landlords Association told the Guardian the the extension was not necessary, adding that 95 per cent of all tenants were paying their rent or had come to an agreement with their landlord.

Chris Norris, policy director for the NRLA, 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."

The Sun has contacted the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for comment.

Last month, landlords agreed three ways to help struggling tenants including rent reductions.

A survey found a third of renters on furlough are worried they won’t be able to pay rent when lockdown ends.

And from June, all tenants no longer had to pay certain fees towards landlords or agents.

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