The government’s moratorium on bailiff-enforced evictions of residential tenants is to be extended again, until the end of March 2021. Back in September, the courts began the enormous task of clearing the backlog of repossession cases, prioritising the most serious, such as those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic violence.
But Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, then called his “Christmas truce”, reintroducing the ban for a month until 11 January, which was subsequently extended again until 21 February. In his announcement today, Mr Jenrick said it ensured renters remained protected “during this difficult time”.
“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.”
The news comes as a further blow to residential landlords who have watched arrears of rent soaring in the knowledge that in many cases the debt will prove irrecoverable. At the same time, tenants’ groups and opposition parties are criticising the government for not going far enough. Shadow housing secretary, Thangam Debbonaire, said:
“Last minute decisions and half-measures from the government are putting people’s homes at risk. Ministers promised nobody would lose their home because of coronavirus, but the current ban isn’t working. The government should give people security in their homes, by strengthening and extending the ban for the period restrictions are in place.”
Landlords’ deep frustration was further exacerbated last summer by new rules designed to slow down the whole repossession process. These rules were introduced to provide support for tenants over the winter and to reduce the impact on the Court Service of the inevitable tsunami of repossession claims.
Both landlord and tenant groups agree that the rent debt crisis is mounting; one which will inevitably see many people evicted from their homes heavily in debt, effectively preventing them from finding alternative accommodation.
Housing charity, Shelter, said its research suggested that in the last month alone, almost 445,000 private renters adults in England had either fallen into rental arrears or been served with an eviction notice.
Following Mr Jenrick’s announcement, the Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NLA), Ben Beadle, said “[This] does nothing to help over 800,000 private renters who have built rent arrears since lockdown measures started… 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.”