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The ban on landlords throwing renters out during the coronavirus pandemic has been extended by just four weeks, despite growing fears over a huge spike in homelessness.
Charities say the month-long reprieve will do little to help struggling families, with the pandemic still expected to cause mass unemployment this winter.
Robert Jenrick’s department, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, had been under increasing pressure to U-turn, after saying it was aiming to “protect landlords”.
The minister said the ban in England and Wales, which was due to end on Sunday, will be extended until September 20, and that a six-month notice period will be introduced until the end of March.
He said: “I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of Covid-19.
“That is why today I am announcing a further four-week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months.
“I am also increasing protections for renters – six-month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.”
Cases involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators are not included, he added.
The announcement did not go down well with landlords, who have now demanded compensation for “lost income”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer welcomed the “11th hour U-turn” but warned the evictions ban should be extended until a “credible plan” is in place to prevent anyone losing their home because of the pandemic.
“This 11th hour U-turn was necessary, but such a brief extension means there is a real risk that this will simply give renters a few more weeks to pack their bags,” said Starmer.
“Boris Johnson has been warned for months about the looming evictions crisis, but stuck his head in the sand.
“People living in rented accommodation should not be paying the price for this government’s incompetence.
“Section 21 evictions must be scrapped and renters must be given proper support. The ban should not be lifted until the government has a credible plan to ensure no one loses their home as a result of coronavirus.”
The IPPR think-tank said the ban on evictions must be extend for at least another six months.
Jonathan Webb, a research fellow at the progressive organisation, said: “Today’s U-turn reflects a lack of long-term planning from the government. Evidence has been mounting since the beginning of March that the pandemic has hit private renters hard.
“A one-month extension on the eviction ban is another short-term fix that doesn’t provide renters with the long-term security they need.”
Associate director Luke Murphy added: “Ministers must step in and extend the ban on evictions for another six months if they are to prevent a potential surge in homelessness.”
Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Gillian Guy, meanwhile, said further measures to help renters were urgently needed.
“We’re really pleased the government has stepped in to keep its promise that no renter will lose their home because of the coronavirus pandemic – for now at least,” she said.
“During this extended pause on new eviction proceedings, we hope the government will work with Citizens Advice and others to put in place a series of protections which will help those who’ve built up rent arrears get back on their feet.
“We’d like to see funding for a dedicated set of protections, including measures such as grants for those in arrears due to coronavirus.”
A study published on Friday by the office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, found that ending the ban now could see 420,000 children evicted with scores of families living in B&Bs and unsuitable temporary accommodation.
The commissioner expressed concerns that an extension of a month wouldn’t be enough to take away the risk of thousands of children’s families being evicted in the run-up to Christmas.
Longfield said: “No child should have to spend time growing up in a cramped room, unable to do school work, sharing bathrooms with adults they don’t know and cut off from family and friends.
“The government and councils showed they could tackle rough sleeping and take bold decisions on evictions in a time of national emergency. That emergency is not yet over for hundreds of thousands of children at risk of eviction, and now is not the time to withdraw this vital safety net.”
But the National Residential Landlords Association has reacted with anger, saying landlords “cannot be expected to foot the bill for Government failure”.
Chief executive Ben Beadle said: “A blanket extension is unacceptable, especially so close to the deadline.”
He added: “Landlords have been left powerless in exercising their legal right to deal with significant arrears unrelated to Covid-19, antisocial behaviour and extremely disruptive tenants who make life miserable for their neighbours and housemates.
“Private landlords cannot be expected to foot the bill for government failure. There must now be a plan to support households to pay their bills and to compensate landlords fully for their lost income.”