Facing mounting pressure of a rent debt crisis fuelled by the pandemic and following a recent shift in policy in Scotland, a six-week extension to the eviction ban has just been announced by the government.
The extension now means that eviction notices - due to on Monday - will not be served during lockdown. Additionally, councils will also be provided with extra funding to house rough sleepers during the cold winter months.
Today's announcement follows increasing pressure from charities who called for more financial support for tenants.
Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, revealed that the bailiff ban will be extended to 21st of February in England.
He said: "At the start of this pandemic we made sure that the most vulnerable in society were protected. This winter, we are continuing in this vein and redoubling our efforts to help those most in need.
"Our ongoing 'Everyone In' initiative is widely regarded as one of the most successful of its kind in the world, ensuring 33,000 people are safe in accommodation. We are now going further and focusing on GP registration of rough sleepers."
Mark Hayward, Chief Policy Advisor for Propertymark, comments: “In light of the recent lockdown, it is no surprise the UK Government has made today’s announcement, yet over the past few weeks the UK Government has held off updates about evictions to the sector making it impossible for agents to respond and plan for the difficult winter months ahead.
"The whole of the private rented sector has been impacted as a result of COVID-19 but we must recognise that the courts already faced a backlog of cases prior to the pandemic. Although the new mediation pilot will help it is important to take steps back towards normality so that both landlords and tenants have access to the justice system while putting measures in place to offer further support to tenants who have built up COVID-related arrears through no fault of their own.”
Oli Sherlock, Head of Insurance at lettings experts, Goodlord, comments: “The Government’s motives here are completely understandable and it’s vital we continue to support tenants during this latest phase of restrictions. Indeed, landlords and tenants have, on the whole, been working well together throughout the crisis to create payment plans and strategies that keep people in their homes. We are concerned, however, that a further extension to the ban without additional provisions for landlords and tenants is storing up even more trouble for the future.
“For tenants, accruing arrears cannot be ignored. These debts will eventually catch-up with them and the small proportion who aren’t engaging proactively with their landlords will eventually find themselves facing County Court Judgements, which can have a long-term impact on their credit ratings. The more debt individuals get into now, the more serious the consequences. We must ensure that systems, potentially similar to those in Scotland and Wales, are in place so tenants stay on top of their rental payments and keep arrears low, or are supported to move to cheaper properties if needed.
“For landlords, many are now nearing breaking point. Scores are facing financial difficulties as a result of unpaid rent and ongoing mortgage costs, with a few facing uncommunicative tenants who are refusing to vacate properties even when leases come to an end (although this is a minority of tenants). Unless more support is put in place for those struggling, we can expect to see a large number of landlords withdraw their lets from the housing market over the next year. This will put pressure on a vital source of housing at a time of critical need. Decision-makers must start thinking about how tenants and landlords alike can recover from these challenges during and following the stay on evictions.
“I would urge that landlords are rapidly provided with clarity in regards to the legal framework they will need to adhere to following the pandemic. In the cases of ongoing breaches, this would provide some much-needed assurance about how and when they can take the actions that will be needed following the lifting of the ban.”