Lockdown is ending, but the renting crisis is not

Jun 03, 2020 12:03 PM

The Government’s eviction ban comes to an end in just three weeks. Here’s how you can help protect renters for the duration of this crisis.

In March, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick assured us that no renter would lose their home as a result of coronavirus. But the Government’s eviction ban comes to an end in just three weeks. Mortgage holders will be able to extend their payment holidays to 31 October, but renters have heard nothing.

Lockdown restrictions are being gradually eased and some are heading back to work, but many renters’ incomes will take far longer to recover from this crisis. Evidence that renters need protection if they cannot pay their rent continues to pile up. This week the Resolution Foundation found that 1 in 8 private renters are behind with housing costs. Despite this, renters have been less successful than owners at getting help in response to coronavirus, with half getting no flexibility on payments at all. To make matters worse, the renting crisis pre-dates the coronavirus crisis; renters already spent more of their income on housing costs than any other tenure, in return for poor conditions and little security. Citizens Advice’s Tenants Voice panel found around a third of renters were worried about eviction immediately before the pandemic hit. Our survey of renters last month found that a quarter of renters who had no issues paying their rent were worried about eviction regardless.

We are not all in this crisis together - renters as a whole are far more vulnerable than homeowners. Those who can’t keep up with payments are entirely reliant on their landlords’ goodwill. Even for those returning to work, it will be very difficult to pay back debts that are owed. If the ban is lifted in three weeks’ time, landlords will be able to once again evict private renters without needing a reason, using Section 21 of the Housing Act. Those in debt to their landlord can also be evicted under Section 8. Court orders suspended in March will become valid again so bailiffs could start removing tenants by the end of the month.

Local authorities, housing lawyers, and renter unions have all warned of a spike of evictions and homelessness following the end of the ban. The Government’s current proposals, a ‘pre action protocol’ with guidance landlords must follow before evicting a tenant, have been branded ‘toothless’ by a cross party group of MPs. It will take more than guidance to ensure those at the sharp end of the crisis won’t lose their homes.

Generation Rent is calling on the Government to protect renters throughout this crisis by:

  • Extending the ban on Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, until the Government has introduced legislation to permanently ban Section 21 evictions via the Renters Reform Bill.  As long as Section 21 notices remain valid, all other efforts to ensure security will be undermined. The Government must extend the stay on proceedings rather than simply extend the notice period.
  • Preventing Section 8 evictions for rent arrears. Amending Section 8 to state that rent is not lawfully due for arrears related to coronavirus would prevent people from losing their homes due to the pandemic. Though the tenant would still be liable, eviction would not be a legal option. Arrears accrued during this period should not affect a tenant’s credit score or affect their ability to rent again in future.
  • Increasing Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and removing the benefit cap.  LHA currently won’t cover the majority of renters’ housing costs. Raising the allowance to cover the average local rent would prevent many renters from facing a shortfall. The household cap and London cap on LHA should be lifted, as should the restrictions on those with No Recourse To Public Funds and with savings above the current threshold.

You can help us. If you’ve been affected by coronavirus, now’s the time to make your voice heard. Share your story amongst hundreds of other renters at ventyour.rent. We’ll be making sure the Government sees them in the next few weeks. 

If you don’t have a story of your own to share, you can support renters by emailing your MP and asking them to raise the issue with the Housing Secretary.  We've created a template for you here. Let them know that their constituents won’t tolerate evictions and homelessness in the middle of an ongoing public health crisis. Everyone deserves a safe, secure home throughout the pandemic and afterwards. We cannot afford to return to business as usual.

If you've been affected by coronavirus, we've gathered the latest advice and support here.