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Rather than concentrating on measures to block tenant evictions, Government focus should be on providing better support for the private rented sector, so as to help both landlords and tenants.
This is what National Residential Landlords Association chief executive Ben Beadle told a Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s Inquiry into the Impact of COVID-19 on homelessness and the private rented sector this week.
It was true that the Government had already provided unprecedented levels of support for the sector, Beadle told the inquiry. Even so, a solid commitment to prevent greater problems was needed, he said.
While helping some tenants, changes made by the Government in response to the Coronavirus Crisis had also caused significant hardship to some landlords, in particular to those whose tenants had been in significant rent arrears prior to the crisis.
The NRLA has been campaigning for financial support to help tenants pay off arrears built up during the crisis along the lines of schemes already operating in Scotland and Wales.
The HCLG Committee inquiry was set up to consider both the immediate and long-term impact of the pandemic on the homeless, rough sleepers and those in the private rented sector. Current hearings are taking evidence from stakeholders about what is being done and what further support is needed. Besides hearing from the NRLA, the committee also heard this week from representatives of Citizens Advice and Shelter, organisations which have joined the NRLA in calling for financial help for renters forced into arrears by the Coronavirus Crisis.
‘What we are lacking is a longer-term strategy to help the sector and I think the measures we have laid out with our colleagues from Crisis and Citizens Advice and others are a route to sustaining tenancies, which is what everyone wants’, said Beadle.
- No eviction notices are to be served until 11 January at the earliest and, given the 14 day notice period required, no evictions are expected to be enforced until 25 January 2021 at the earliest. The only exceptions to this are the most serious circumstances: illegal occupation, false statement, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in social housing, where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant, and extreme rent arrears equivalent to nine months’ rent with any arrears accrued since 23 March discounted.
This is the advice contained in updated guidance published by the Government this week: COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities. This provides advice to landlords and tenants on the provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020, and about their rights and responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.