Letting agents and landlords will now have to wait another six weeks to evict tenants after the current evictions ban expires on 21st February, the Government announced yesterday.
Those waiting to evict tenants via existing possession orders, which at the moment are largely for ‘egregious’ rent arrears of more than six months, will now have to wait until 31st March to use bailiffs to complete the process.
The announcement by housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured) over the weekend had been expected for several weeks as the current lockdown looks less and less likely to be lifted in the near future.
The terms of the current ban will remain in place, which restrict evictions to a narrow set of exemptions including serious rent arrears, trespass, anti-social behaviour and domestic violence cases.
Tenants still have to be given six months’ notice of an intention to evict.
The previous bailiff evictions ban was announced on 8th January and followed the ‘Christmas truce’ on eviction announced in November after the court system re-opened for possession cases, allowing tenants to be served notices and for the court process to be followed.
“Our measures strike the right balance between protecting tenants and enabling landlords to exercise their right to justice,” Jenrick says.
Most players in the private rental sector are agreed that the measure will protect tenants who are struggling financially, but have criticised the measure as only a short-term ‘sticking plaster’.
Despite billions spent on extra cash for Universal Credit and the Local Housing Allowance, the government has yet to take direct action to tackle a growing army of landlords who tenants are racking up serious rent arrears.
“The Government needs to get a grip and do something about the debt crisis renters and landlords are now facing,” says Ben Beadle (pictured), Chief Executive of the NRLA.
“A package of hardship loans and grants is needed as a matter of urgency. To expect landlords and tenants simply to muddle through without further support is a strategy that has passed its sell by date.”
Isobel Thomson, Chief Executive of Safeagent, said, “We recognise financial support for renters has been put in place to a certain extent by Government, but shortfalls still exist between what the agreed rent at the start of a tenancy was and the amount tenants – whose circumstances have changed drastically through no fault of their own – can afford to pay.
“This comes at a huge cost to both tenants and landlords. Tenants have debt hanging over them with the anxiety that brings and landlords are struggling with financial commitments they must meet, particularly where properties are subject to buy to let mortgages.
Law Society president David Greene said: “We are pleased that some tenants who would otherwise be facing eviction will be able to stay in their homes, particularly given the colder weather and the new variants of the virus.
“However, it should be noted that those with significant rent arrears are exempt from the ban, and as time goes on it is likely that more tenants will be evicted as a result of significant amounts of overdue rent.”