Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington, has joined Labour’s calls on the government to extend the evictions ban.
The moratorium was first announced on 18th March by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, aimed at reducing the risk of homelessness for renters who would lose income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the ban is due to end on Sunday 23rd August, at a time when millions are still facing severe financial hardship and uncertainty. Labour has warned that nearly a quarter of a million people across the UK are at risk of being made homeless if the suspension lifts as planned.
Citing research carried out by the housing charity Shelter, which found that 174,000 renters have already been threatened with eviction, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire wrote to Robert Jenrick this week to urge him to “rethink” ending the ban.
In her letter to the minister, Debbonaire declared that “after the incompetent handling of the exams fiasco, the government must act now to avoid more chaos of its own making”.
Before the pandemic, there were over 1.15 million households on council housing waiting lists, and the number of families in insecure private-rented accommodation increased by 7% last year alone.
Shelter has estimated that 227,000 adult private renters have fallen into arrears since the start of the pandemic. Under current law, when the ban lifts, anyone who has accrued arrears of eight weeks or more can be automatically evicted.
This does not include those who can be made homeless as part of a ‘no fault’ eviction after the suspension lifts. Under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, landlords can ‘seek possession’ of their properties without a reason being given.
Boris Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May both pledged to end no-fault evictions, promising to bring forward a new ‘renters’ reform bill’. But the Conservatives have failed to act on this pledge.
You can add your name to Labour’s petition calling on the Government to extend the evictions ban here.
Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, Thangam Debbonaire, said:
“Before Covid, we already had devastatingly high numbers in temporary accommodation as a direct result of 10 years of Conservative government, whose policies have pushed people into poverty.
“The Government have known for months that an evictions crisis is looming. Not for the first time, it has been too slow to take action and we’re now facing a potential disaster if the ban is lifted with no plan for what comes next.”
“It is unthinkable that the Government should leave hundreds of thousands of renters vulnerable to homelessness by ending the evictions ban on Sunday. Just like their proposals to cut off furlough for all sectors in October, it would result in a self-inflicted crisis and end up doing much more harm in the long term.
“Many of the renters who’ve been able to return to work have still not recovered financially from their losses of income and accruals of debt since March, and for those who’ve been made redundant, or who are working in sectors which have not yet reopened, the situation is even worse. The Housing Secretary needs look carefully at emerging homelessness data, heed the warnings of homelessness charities and Labour, and extend the ban.”