Coronavirus Bill: Johnson has ‘broken his promise’ to UK renters

The government had promised it would outlaw evictions in social and private housing during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The three-month outright eviction ban pledged to renters last week appears to have been watered down in the Coronavirus Emergency Bill passed by Parliament.

As reported by 24housing, the government pledged to introduce a ‘complete ban on evictions and additional protections for renters’ affected by the virus.

However, the Coronavirus Bill merely extends the notice required for possession from two months to three – with Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey slamming Johnson for “breaking his promise” to over 20 million renters across the UK.

It also offers no protection to residents who can be evicted without notice – such as those in temporary housing or lodgers.

No provision is made for rent arrears that will be built up during this period if people are unable to work.

The government has previously said it would encourage landlords and tenants to agree “an affordable repayment plan” for these arrears.

It’s currently unknown whether this was an error in drafting – the government is under extreme pressure currently – or an intentional change of mind.

According to Shelter, as many of 20,000 eviction proceedings already in progress will go ahead over the next three months – with people already trying to isolate still facing the prospect of losing their home by mid-June.

“The government must not be prepared to allow so many evictions to continue – risking the health of not just those losing their homes, but also the people they are forced into contact with”, the charity warned.

Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey said the Bill is not an eviction ban as Labour argued for – “this legislation does not stop people losing their homes as a result of Coronavirus, just gives them some extra time to pack their bags.”

“It beggars belief that the government is not willing to make this simple change”, he said.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has since defended the Bill, saying that “no new court proceedings can commence in the next three months – as promised – and we’ve taken the power to extend if necessary.”

This, however, will not affect notices already served with the three month period, which will take effect after three months “regardless”, critics have said.

The Bill is unlikely to take effect before Friday at the earliest – raising the prospect of a slew of notices before this date.

Caitlin Wilkinson, Policy Manager at Generation Rent said: “This legislation fails to deliver on these promises in every respect.

“All these measures do is extend the notice period for evictions to three months, which will provide little comfort to those faced with losing their homes in the midst of a pandemic.

“Equally worrying is the lack of provision made for rent arrears, which will stack up in the three-month period.

“Many renters will end up with thousands of pounds worth of debt and no means of paying it off.

“Landlords and tenants are expected to ‘work together’ to find a solution to suit both parties from June onwards – but there’s absolutely nothing to stop landlords from evicting tenants if they can’t pay.

“Eviction is the leading cause of homelessness, so the Government must act now to avoid another crisis in three months’ time.”

Dame Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice, said: “Last week, the Housing Secretary pledged ‘no renter who has lost income due to Coronavirus will be forced out of their home’. These measures fall woefully short of that promise.

“Simply extending notice periods to three months cannot be seen as ‘job done’. It means that people dealing with unimaginable financial uncertainty still face the prospect of being served with an eviction notice.

“Over the coming days, the government must keep their promise and add to these changes to make sure no one loses the roof over their head as a result of Coronavirus.”

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