Government accused of backtracking on its promise to protect renters from eviction as coronavirus crisis deepens
- Government has banned evictions for three months for those unable to work
- Landlords will still be able to serve eviction notices during this time
- Some have reported tenants are already struggling to pay their rent
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
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The Government has been accused of rowing back on its promise to protect renters from eviction during the coronavirus crisis.
Last week the Ministry of Housing promised a ‘complete ban on evictions’ for those unable to work due to the pandemic.
Around five million households in the UK live in private rented accommodation and many of these could struggle to pay the bills if they need to take time off work.
However, this week, the Government’s Coronavirus Bill has been criticised as not going far enough to protect these tenants from losing their homes.
Landlords will still be able to serve tenants with eviction notices over the next three months
While the Bill ensures tenants can’t be physically removed from their property for the next three months, landlords will still be able to serve them notice to kick them out once the three month period ends.
The new legislation has extended the notice a landlord must give from two months to three – meaning that if a notice was served today, a tenant would have three months before they are evicted.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the Bill ‘just gives [renters] some extra time to pack their bags’.
Landlords will still be able to serve what are known as ‘Section 21’ and ‘Section 8’ notices during this time.
A Section 21 notice allows a landlord to evict tenants from their homes for whatever reason they like, but can’t be used during the first six months of the tenancy.
A Section 8 notice allows landlords to evict their tenant inside the fixed term of their tenancy, but can only be used if the tenant has breached their tenancy agreement and where certain conditions are met.
Caitlin Wilkinson, policy manager at campaign group Generation Rent, said: ‘This legislation fails to deliver on these promises in every respect.
Some tenants are already struggling to pay rent
Tenants are already struggling to pay rent among the coronavirus outbreak, reports have confirmed.
Angus Stewart, chief executive of buy-to-let mortgage broker Property Master, said: ‘It is early days but we are already hearing from landlords who have tenants saying they will be late with rent payments or who may not be able to pay their rent at all.
‘There are reports of tenants whose working hours have been reduced or who work for overseas companies that do not appear to be currently trading.’
‘Eviction is the leading cause of homelessness, so the Government must act now to avoid another crisis in three months’ time.’
A Ministry of Housing spokesperson said: ‘We want to be clear that emergency legislation being brought forward means there can be no evictions as a result of coronavirus for three months.
‘The claim that we are rowing back on it is absolute nonsense.
‘As soon as legislation is passed, no new possession proceedings will begin – in either the social sector or the private rented sector – for at least the next three months.
‘We have the power to extend this notice period if necessary.’
‘At the same time, this government is supporting renters through guaranteeing to pay 80 per cent of employee’s wages, if their employer cannot afford to pay them while they are on temporary leave, and increased housing benefit.
‘We have been clear we will do whatever is needed to support people at this difficult time.’
The Government added that guidance has been issued to judges and bailiffs, meaning that it is highly unlikely that any existing possession proceedings will continue during this period.
This means that if a tenant was due to be kicked out this month for example, they may now get an extension.
I’m a tenant, what should I do?
Citizens Advice expert Rachael Gore
Rachael Gore, senior housing expert at Citizens Advice, has this advice for tenants who are worried about coronavirus: ‘If you’re struggling to pay rent, talk to your landlord straight away.
‘You should explain the situation and could ask for more time to pay or ask to catch up any missed payments by instalments.
‘If you can’t come to an agreement with your landlord, it’s a good idea to pay what you can afford and keep a record of what you offered.
‘You should get advice if you can’t reach an agreement because there is a risk that your landlord might try to evict you. In most cases, they’d have to give you notice and get a court order in order to make you leave.
‘If your income is reduced because of coronavirus, you should check whether you’re entitled to sick pay or to claim benefits. If you’re already on existing benefits, these might also increase.
‘Check your eligibility for both sick pay and benefits on the Citizens Advice website.’
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