Government confirms suspension of evictions for social and private housing

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced emergency legislation as the country continues to battle the effects of Coronavirus.

Eviction notice on door

The Government has announced no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period.

The government has firmly stated that “as a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction”.

Jenrick has also confirmed that the three month mortgage payment holiday announced yesterday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing difficult due to Coronavirus.

This is in the hope it will alleviate the pressure on landlords, who are concerned about meeting mortgage payments, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result.

At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.

To support this announcement, the government has worked with the Master of the Rolls to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings, to include private renters and to strengthen its remit.

This will support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants to resolve disputes and landlords will have to reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in.

The government will also issue guidance which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible. 

The government also announced those who have benefited from Help to Buy will be offered interest payment holidays if they are struggling to pay due to Coronavirus.

Jenrick said: “The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to Coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.

“These are extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage.

“Which is why we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started.

“These changes will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time.”

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords association, said: “Landlord groups welcomes government support.

“We recognise the exceptional circumstances and we will work collaboratively with government to ensure these measures protect both landlords and tenants.”

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, who yesterday confirmed that housing associations wouldn’t evict any tenant, welcomed the news: “We understand some people living in social housing will be worried about how they’re going to pay rent and we want to reassure them that no one in a housing association home will be evicted due to Coronavirus.

“If you are concerned about your ability to pay, please contact your housing association who will want to support you.

“Rent is really important to not-for-profit housing associations – this money allows them to carry out essential repairs and maintenance work and provide support services to people in their homes.

“Where people’s circumstances change due to the Coronavirus, the welfare system must step in to ensure they can pay their rent and have money to live off.

“Housing associations will continue to work closely with residents to help them manage their rent and ensure they can access all benefits they are entitled to.

“We want to work with government to ensure there is support in place for housing associations dealing with any loss of income from rent.”

Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, said: “We have already heard from renters who are losing work as a result of the outbreak and have been given eviction notices. This announcement will give them welcome short term respite.

“But there is nothing here that will help renters who get into arrears to find the money to pay them off at the end of their landlord’s mortgage holiday.

“Levels of housing benefit have fallen behind market rents and new claimants face delays in getting payments.

“To ensure renters don’t fall into debt, the government now needs to offer rent relief.”

On the other side of the fence, in a joint statement, the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association said: “Our priority is to ensure that tenants are secure in their homes during this crisis.

“The three month buy to let mortgage payment holiday will take a lot of pressure off landlords enabling them to be as flexible as possible with tenants facing difficulties with their rent payments.

“No responsible landlord will be considering evicting tenants because of difficulties arising from the current situation.

“There does need to be some flexibility though such as with dealing with a tenant engaging in anti-social behaviour. This could cause misery for fellow tenants or neighbours especially when they are going to be spending a lot of time together.

“We would like to see further measures taken including pausing the final phase of restricting mortgage interest relief to the basic rate of income tax due in April.

“In addition we need to do all we can to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

“There should be national guidelines for local authorities to suspend routine inspections of properties and a temporary halt on enforcement action where landlords are unable to fulfil certain required obligations because of the health risk posed to them, tenants, and contractors.”

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said: “Councils are leading local efforts to support communities as they try and cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

“They will be working with tenants who are experiencing financial challenges as a result to support them to stay in their homes. Many are already suspending debt recovery and will try and use discretionary funding to support struggling household as quickly and effectively as possible

“Councils need the flexibility to ensure hardship funding announced by the government is best-used to support economically vulnerable people and households and are also seeking clarity on how it can be integrated with other financial hardship support that is being provided locally and through the benefits system.

“We are pleased the government has committed to bringing forward measures to protect tenants from eviction and look forward to seeing the details.

“This needs to include urgently addressing the growing shortfall before Housing Benefit and private-sector rents that has opened up.”

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