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Wed, 30 September 2020

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Labour urges government to extend evictions ban or see ‘more chaos of its own making’

Labour urges government to extend evictions ban or see ‘more chaos of its own making’

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said ministers had taken "unprecedented action" to help renters. (PA)

3 min read

Labour has urged the Government to extend a ban on evictions or risk “more chaos of its own making”.

Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire has written to her government counterpart Robert Jenrick, asking him to continue a pause on enforcement action that was put in place at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labour frontbencher said the ban should be extended “until the Government has introduced changes to our broken housing system that will protect tenants”.

The Government announced a ban on evictions in March, with the curbs extended in June to prevent landlords from starting proceedings against tenants until August 23.

But ministers have said that from August 24, “the courts will begin to process possession cases again” in a move the Government has described as “an important step towards ending the lockdown” that will “protect landlords’ important right to regain their property”.

In her letter to Mr Jenrick, the Shadow Housing Secretary asks for the “steps you have taken to prevent a self-made homelessness crisis at the worst possible moment, as the furlough scheme winds up and we face the risk of growing infections of coronavirus”.

Ms Debbonaire adds: “Veering from crisis to crisis is no way to run a country. After the incompetent handling of the exams fiasco, the government must act now to avoid more chaos of its own making.

"The situation is urgent, but there is still time for you to re-think, and extend the ban. I urge you to do so.”

The Labour frontbencher asks the department what assessment it has made of the likely numbers of people facing homelessness if the ban is lifted; what consideration they have given to the impact of the move on public health; and why the Government has not yet moved to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions.

She asks: “What steps is the Government taking to prevent a rent debt crisis? More than half of private renters aged between 25 and 34 years had no savings in 2018-19. 

“But the Government has repeatedly ignored calls to address this through the social security system.

"Renters are harder hit by the crisis, but Government support has so far focused on landlords and home-owners.”

The exchange comes amid warnings that the end of the ban could see a surge in evictions, with housing charity Shelter last month estimating that 230,000 households were already behind with their rent.

The group said judges should be given the power to stop automatic evictions and urged ministers to guarantee that “the impact of coronavirus is always considered” in any decision.

Meanwhile a cross-party group of MPs on Monday called on ministers to do more to protect homeless people amid the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter to rough sleeping minister Luke Hall, the MPs — including nine from Labour, one from the DUP and 10 Liberal Democrats — called on the Government to ensure all councils in England can fund accommodation for the homeless "for at least a year".

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said ministers had taken "unprecedented action" to help renters during the pandemic and would do so after the ban ends.

"We have changed court rules so landlords need to provide more information about their tenants' situation when seeking an eviction - with judges able to adjourn a case if they don't," they added.

The department also pointed out that landlords will need to give tenants three months’ notice for possession cases until at least the end of September.

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