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A two month extension to the ban on tenant evictions has been announced by the Government.
The ban now runs until 23 August, five months since its start.
The Government said it is ‘also working with the judiciary, legal representatives and the advice sector on arrangements, including new rules, which will mean that courts are better able to address the need for appropriate protection of all parties, including those shielding from coronavirus’.
This, it said, is 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.
‘While the government is taking unprecedented action to protect tenants and landlords during these times, the ultimate ambition is to transition out of these measures at the end of August to allow the market to operate while ensuring people have appropriate access to justice’.
Eviction hearings will not be heard in courts until the end of August and no-one will be evicted from their home this summer due to coronavirus, said Housing Minister Robert Jenrick.
‘A judiciary-led, cross-sector, task-and-finish working group’ has been convened to consider how possession proceedings will be dealt with once the current ban is lifted.
Guidance for landlords and renters is to be updated to reflect changes.
The National Residential Landlords Association said it is working with the Government to develop a pre-action protocol that will ensure landlords and tenants have done everything possible to reach an agreement on rent arrears before any repossession can take place.
And when hearings do resume, the NRLA wants priority to be given to cases involving debt built up before the lockdown began, or where tenants are engaged in anti-social behaviour or might be committing domestic abuse.
NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle, said Government plans for the private rental market once the ban on evictions has been lifted should be published without delay.
‘We have every sympathy with tenants who face genuine difficulties because of a loss of income due to the coronavirus crisis and as our survey out tomorrow shows, nearly all landlords are working with tenants who are struggling to keep them in their home.
‘It is important the Government sets out its plans for the market at the end of this one-time extension. A failure to do so will cause serious damage to the private rented sector as a whole. It will ultimately be tenants who suffer as they will find it increasingly difficult to find affordable housing if landlords do not have the confidence that they will get their properties back swiftly in legitimate circumstances’.
The NRLA is asking the Government to consider ‘hardship loans’ to tenants who have temporarily fallen behind with their rent. But it said this would be only a small minority of tenants and suggested that an eviction crisis was looming amounted to ‘scaremongering’.
A survey of over 2,000 tenants commissioned by the NRLA found that 90 per cent said that they had paid their rent as usual since the coronavirus crisis began. Most, 84 per cent, had not needed to ask their landlord for any support. Of those that did ask, three quarters received a positive response.
Citizens Advice was also not entirely happy with the extension on the ban on evictions – which it described as ‘a sticking plaster not a cure’.
Chief executive Dame Gillian Guy said ‘extending the pause on repossession action is important recognition from the Government that many renters are facing real hardship during the coronavirus outbreak, and will give thousands of people a welcome breathing space. But simply extending the pause of repossession is a sticking plaster not a cure. People who have fallen behind on rent arrears and those who have been furloughed or lost their jobs will need the security of proper reform to the rules governing evictions.
‘We look forward to working with the Government in the coming weeks on changes to make sure they keep their promise, that no renter should lose their home because of coronavirus’.