Hundreds of thousands across the UK could lose their homes next month when the coronavirus eviction ban ends, a charity has warned.
An estimated 227,000 of adults have fallen into rent arrears since the start of the pandemic, meaning they at risk of becoming homeless when the suspension on evictions ends on August 23, reveal figures released by Shelter.
The ban was introduced by ministers in March in a bid to protect renters who could not pay their bills after losing jobs or being put on the furlough scheme. But last week, housing minister Lord Greenhalgh confirmed the suspension would not be extended beyond next month, calling it an ‘important step towards ending lockdown’.
The housing charity has warned that unless the government urgently acts to protect renters struggling to pay rent amid the pandemic, judges will be powerless to stop them from losing their homes once the ban lifts. Chief executive Polly Neate insisted that the housing minister can ‘still avert this disaster’.
Under the current court system, anyone who accrues rent arrears of eight weeks or more can be automatically evicted. They also face being subjected to a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction, which allows landlords to repossess the property at short notice and without reason after their fixed-term tenancy ends.
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Mum-of-three Jeanny, 48, who lives in Bournemouth, was furloughed from her retail job at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak meaning she had to take a pay cut.
But when she asked her landlord for some flexibility on rent payments, Jeanny was completely ‘shocked’ when she was told that she and her children would have to leave their family home of four years by October 4. She said she has paid her rent in full and on time every month before the pandemic.
Jeanny, said: ‘I thought my landlord would at least say “let’s talk” about the rent before threatening me with eviction when I told her I couldn’t quite pay my full rent after my pay was cut.’
The mother said she is trying her best to cut outgoings and has been buying cheaper food but said the situation is ‘incredibly stressful’.
‘Being under all this pressure is having a massive impact on everyone in the family. It affects my sleep, it’s on my mind all the time,’ she added.
‘I talk about it with my older children, and we try and work out where we can get the money from to top up the rent… I don’t want it to come to an eviction through the courts. I don’t want my children to go through that.’
A YouGov poll carried out for Shelter found 174,000 private tenants have already been threatened with eviction by their landlord or letting agent.
Meanwhile, the total number number of private renters in arrears reached 442,000 adults – double what it was in the same period last year.
The charity also revealed nearly a third of renters – 2.7 million adults – feel more depressed and anxious about their housing situation, with the same amount suffering sleepless nights.
Shelter said the figures demonstrate ‘the terrifying impact of the pandemic on private renter’s finances’ which ‘is only likely to get worse’ as many could lose their jobs as the furlough scheme comes to an end.
CEO Ms Neate said: ‘The Housing Secretary promised no-one would lose their home because of coronavirus… Unless he acts now, he will break his promise, and put thousands of renters at risk of homelessness.’
‘[The Housing Secretary] can prevent these ‘Covid-evictions’ as the pandemic continues and keep families safe in their homes. All he and the government need to do – in the 10 sitting days before Parliament breaks for the summer – is make some small changes to the law.
‘These changes would give judges the power to ensure that no renter is automatically evicted, and the impact of coronavirus is always considered.’
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