The Government has announced that renters will continue to be supported during the ongoing national lockdown restrictions, with an extension to the ban on bailiff evictions extended until 31st March.

The ban on bailiff evictions was introduced at the start of the pandemic means that the ban has been extended for another six weeks with measures kept under review in line with the latest public health advice.

Exemptions remain in place for the most serious circumstances that cause the greatest strain on landlords as well as other residents and neighbours, such as illegal occupation, anti-social behaviour and arrears of six months’ rent or more.

Landlords are also required to give six-month notice periods to tenants before starting possession proceedings, except in the most serious circumstances, meaning that most renters now served notice can stay in their homes until at least August 2021, with time to find alternative support or accommodation.

For those renters who require additional support, there is an existing £180 million of government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments for councils to distribute to support renters with housing costs.

Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said “We have taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic including introducing a six-month notice period and financial support to help those struggling to pay their rent.”

“By extending the ban on the enforcement of evictions by bailiffs, in all but the most serious cases, we are ensuring renters remain protected during this difficult time. Our measures strike the right balance between protecting tenants and enabling landlords to exercise their right to justice.’

Court rules and procedures introduced in September to support both tenants and landlords will remain in place and regularly reviewed, with courts continuing to prioritise the most cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation and perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector.

The government has also launched a new free mediation pilot to support landlords and tenants to resolve disputes before a formal court hearing takes place. This will help tenants at an early stage of the possession process, mitigating the risk of tenants becoming homeless and helping to sustain tenancies where possible.

Together these measures strike the right balance between prioritising public health and supporting the most vulnerable renters, whilst ensuring landlords can access and exercise their right to justice in the most serious cases.

Responding to the Government’s announcement Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association said “Today’s announcement does nothing to help over 800,000 private renters who have built rent arrears since lockdown measures started last year. It means debts will continue to mount to the point where they have no hope of paying them off. It will lead eventually to them having to leave their home and face serious damage to their credit scores.”

“The Government needs to get a grip and do something about the debt crisis renters and landlords are now facing. A package of hardship loans and grants is needed as a matter of urgency. To expect landlords and tenants simply to muddle through without further support is a strategy that has passed its sell by date.”