This past weekend, the COVID-19 eviction ban was extended by four weeks in the UK, following ministers' concerns that thousands could lose their homes. The eviction ban has now been extended until 20th September, meaning courts will continue the pause on possession hearings.
Several landlords’ groups and lawyers feel this decision helps no one.
Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, told the BBC, “there is a real risk that this will simply give renters a few more weeks to pack their bags." Starmer added, "the ban should not be lifted until the government has a credible plan to ensure that no-one loses their home as a result of coronavirus."
The general feeling is that ministers need to come up with longer-term solutions both for landlords and for tenants.
Inside Housing reports that the "government also said that when hearings are resumed after 20th September, cases involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes will be prioritised, alongside those where landlords have not received rent for over a year.”
The ban was initially due to end on Sunday 23rd August; however, the decision to extend comes from the fear thousands would find themselves homeless over the coming months.
Shelter reports over 170,000 private tenants have been threatened with eviction by their landlord or letting agent and that 230,000 tenants have fallen behind on their rent payments.
The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has branded the move “totally unacceptable." The NRLA is now calling for a financial compensation package from the government to help landlords who are no longer earning an income from tenants. Ben Beadle, the CEO of the NRLA, also argued that "private landlords cannot be expected to foot the bill for government failure."
Additionally, in Wales, landlords are now required to give tenants six-months' notice before they are evicted, more than double the usual two months' notice.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a drastic fall in the economy, which has seen thousands furloughed and laid off from their jobs leading to nationwide financial struggles. Many tenants fear that they will lose their homes.
David Batchelder, 35, lost his job in pest control at the start of lockdown and is now living off benefits. He told the BBC that benefits are not enough to cover everything, including rent for his flat in High Wycombe. He commented, "the landlords have been very good so far, but they can only do so much.” David is a typical example of those struggling financially because of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic crisis.
This extension has been welcomed by those who face eviction. However, there is still concern this decision is a temporary solution, leaving many worried that ministers do not have long term solutions in the pipeline.
The BBC reports that Lord Pickles, the former Conservative Communities Secretary, told BBC Radio 4 he thinks the ban should be extended into next spring as the “periodic” extensions do not give tenants more security.