Ban on evictions extended for four weeks after ministers bow to pressure to avoid 'devastating homelessness crisis'
The Government have been urged to extend the eviction ban and prevent a spike in homelessness (PA)
The ban on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic is being extended for another four weeks after the Government bowed to pressure from campaigners and opposition parties.
Ministers had been warned hundreds of thousands of tenants were at risk of losing their homes as a results of the policy ending this weekend.
Charities said they feared a wave of mass evictions around Christmas with renters unable to pay their bills due to the impact of Covid-19.
They have been protected during the crisis by a ban announced in March and extended in June.
But if it is lifted without extra protection, charities warned it would create a "devastating homelessness crisis".
The Government had hinted it would further extend the policy, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps telling LBC on Friday morning: "I know that getting that balance right between the renters and the landlords is something that my colleagues in the housing ministry are working closely on, and I think they will make further announcements about it shortly, which I'm not privy to right now.”
Several hours later the move was confirmed, with the eviction ban in England now remaining in place until 20 September.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of Covid-19. That is why today I am announcing a further 4-week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months.
“I am also increasing protections for renters - six month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.
“However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.”
The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he welcomed the decision, but he called for a longer-term "credible plan" to prevent anyone losing their home because of the pandemic.
"This 11th hour U-turn was necessary, but such a brief extension means there is a real risk that this will simply give renters a few more weeks to pack their bags," Sir Keir said.
"Boris Johnson has been warned for months about the looming evictions crisis, but stuck his head in the sand.
"People living in rented accommodation should not be paying the price for this Government's incompetence.
"Section 21 evictions must be scrapped and renters must be given proper support. 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."
And Luke Murphy from the IPPR think tank said: “Today’s announcement provides renters with some breathing space.
“However, we know they are more likely to have been adversely affected by Covid-19. Even now, the government is withdrawing measures of support for private renters sooner than they are for landlords, who can obtain a mortgage holiday until the end of October.
"Ministers must step-in and extend the ban on evictions for another six months if they are to prevent a potential surge in homelessness.”
Housing charity Shelter estimated almost a quarter of a million renters had fallen behind on their rent by the end of June, while the District Councils Network claimed almost half a million people could now be at risk of eviction.