Eviction ban extended until late February

The Government has extended the eviction ban, which was due to end on Monday 11th January (today),  The Government says that renters will continue to be supported during the new national restrictions, with an extension to the ban on bailiff evictions for all but the most egregious cases for at least 6 weeks –until at least 21st February with measures kept under review.

Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP said “At the start of this pandemic we made sure that the most vulnerable in society were protected. This winter, we are continuing in this vein and redoubling our efforts to help those most in need.”

“We are extending the ban on bailiff evictions, helping to protect the most vulnerable renters. Landlords continue to be required to give 6-month notice periods to tenants until at least 31st March except in the most serious circumstances.”

The Government says that a new mediation pilot will provide further support landlords and renters who face court procedures and potential eviction from next month (February). It will offer mediation as part of the possession process to try and help landlords and tenants to reach a mutual agreement and keep people in their homes.

Helping to resolve disputes through mediation will enable courts to prioritise urgent cases, supporting landlords and tenants to resolve issues quickly without the need for a formal hearing. The mediation pilot will work within the existing court arrangements in England and Wales.

The protections for renters are on top of the comprehensive package of support the Government says that it has put in place to help households, including support for businesses to pay staff salaries and strengthening the welfare safety-net by billions of pounds. This has helped to protect renters from the economic fallout of the pandemic by supporting them meet their outgoings, including paying their rent.

The Government says that the ban on bailiff evictions applies to “all but the most egregious cases” and that its measures will be kept under review. It adds that a new mediation pilot for landlords and renters who face court procedures will be put into place in February to help both parties reach a mutual agreement and to allow courts to prioritise cases.

Responding to the government announcement  StepChange Debt Charity has welcomed the extension of the rental evictions ban. The charity says it is the only appropriate response in the midst of the current public health crisis. StepChange urges the Government to recognise that the same principle applies in the wider bailiff sector, and to ban all in-person bailiff visits (which are still currently allowed) for the duration of lockdown.

It says that around a third of private sector tenants have seen their income fall, and some 370,000 have fallen into rent arrears and are worried about eviction – with hundreds of thousands more worried about facing a similar position. StepChange, along with a wide variety of other debt advice, housing and landlord organisations, is urging the Government to consider not just the immediate need to prevent eviction activity on public health grounds, but also how to support tenants and landlords back to recovery.

There is a clear need for public policy to develop a support framework to maximise the chances of tenants keeping their homes, while also recognising the need to mitigate the loss of rental income on which small landlords may themselves be reliant to meet their own financial obligations.

Richard Lane, StepChange Debt Charity Director of External Affairs, said “While we fully welcome the extension of the temporary evictions ban, we also urge Government to implement the same policy and ban wider bailiff visits, and to start building the longer-term recovery framework that will be needed to tackle household debt once the pandemic eventually ends.”

Alistair Cromwell, Acting Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said “The government has made the right decision to extend this protection. Renters who are struggling with arrears shouldn’t face the prospect of losing the roof over their head when everyone is being asked to stay at home.”

“However, there are still hundreds of thousands of people in arrears and this debt will continue to hang over them. The government should put in place targeted financial support for tenants in England who’ve fallen behind on their rent.”