On 11th January 2021, the government’s “winter truce” on residential evictions is due to end, leaving more tenants vulnerable to eviction this winter in the middle of the COVID second wave. The business evictions ban has already been extended to March 2021, but tenants still await news on the situation with residential evictions.
It’s worth remembering that not all evictions have been paused during the pandemic. Greater Manchester Law Centre has been taking the Home Office to court to oppose evictions of ‘failed’ asylum seekers during the pandemic. These occupants can be given as little as 14 days to leave their homes, often leaving them with nowhere to go unless they accept ‘assisted repatriation’ – a way to coerce individuals to accept being deported to places where they feel unsafe.
Evictions have also continued for lodgers and people staying in temporary homeless accommodation or supported shared housing, with people being forced out on the street with 7 days’ notice or less.
Measures brought in to flatten the curve of COVID-19 evictions have caused some landlords to serve Notice to tenants as a commercial, precautionary measure, and others to label their tenants as ‘anti-social’ so as to avoid delays, as ‘anti-social behaviour’ provides legal grounds for pressing ahead with an eviction even during the ‘winter truce’. The worst landlords, frustrated by delays, have decided simply to take the law into their own hands. Unlawful evictions were up by 50% in September (and that is only those that are reported).
Nevertheless, a majority of renters in private rental properties and social housing have been protected from evictions for some time, either by the stay on court proceedings between March and September or the winter truce on bailiff evictions, due to end on 11th January.
In March 2020, Robert Jenricks, the Housing Secretary, announced that “No one should lose their home as a result of Coronavirus pandemic.”
Since then, what has changed?
- An estimated 840,000 private tenants are now reported to be in rent arrears.
- Record numbers have lost income and been forced to rely on Universal Credit, which is capped and so does not necessarily cover claimants’ full private rental costs.
- The Bank of England predicts that unemployment will continue to rise, from an already increased 4.9% from August to October 2019, to between 7.7% and 10% in 2021.
- A new strain of the corona virus is reported to be out of control, and the country is on alert level 5, the highest level in the grading system.
Eviction from private rented accommodation is already the biggest cause of homelessness in Manchester. In August 2020, Andy Burnham warned we are facing a ‘1930s-style’ homelessness crisis. Unless urgent measures are put in place, this warning is about to come true.
Too often during this pandemic, the government has acted too late to protect people from unnecessary harm. The action that is needed now to protect tenants is:
- A resumption of the stay on possession proceedings;
- A continuation of the eviction moratorium;
- A return to ‘Everyone In’ so that no one is left on the streets.
After the pandemic, the government’s promised to ‘Build Back Better’ must mean exactly that: building and investing in truly affordable, publicly funded housing for renters to live in and strengthening housing rights for tenants to enforce.
And at GMLC, we will continue to build coalitions with renters’ unions and provide advice, information and representation for tenants who need access to justice.
It’s time to remind the government: to stay home, you have to have a home!
Written by GMLC staff.