Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Ban on bailiff evictions in England extended to end of March
14 February 2021, 10:26 | Updated: 14 February 2021, 11:41
A ban on bailiff-forced evictions will be extended until the end of March, the government has announced, as housing charity Shelter warns almost half a million people could face eviction.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the “unprecedented” ban will remain in place for all but the most serious cases for another six weeks, giving more protection to private renters during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Jenrick said the measures “strike the right balance between protecting tenants and enabling landlords to exercise their right to justice”.
Ministers had announced last month that the ban would continue until 22 February, having been due to expire on 11 January. It was first introduced last March during the first national lockdown.
The latest extension comes after Boris Johnson faced questions on the issue from Labour leader Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
Housing and homelessness charity Shelter welcomed the extension, but said it is “not an answer to the evictions crisis”.
Shelter said its research shows almost almost 445,000 private renting adults in England have fallen behind on their rent or been served with some kind of eviction notice in the last month.
Speaking to LBC, Chris Wood, assistant director of research, policy and public affairs at Shelter explained: “It still allows eviction notices to be served, people can still go to court, so most of the eviction process still happens.
“But it is that last stage of actually being forced out of your home, which won’t happen for most renters. That is really good, they know they can stay in their home and stay safe.
Mr Wood added: “This isn’t an answer for anyone really. It is a temporary measure to keep people safe... It is a short term sticking plaster.”
Shelter chief executive Polly Neate is calling on the government to go further, providing “a lifeline of emergency grants to help pay off 'Covid-arrears' so people can avoid the terrifying risk of eviction altogether”.
“Renters are still being served with eviction notices every day, and our helpline is flooded with calls from those desperately worried about paying their rent.”
Similarly, National Residential Landlords Association chief executive Ben Beadle warned the announcement was storing up future problems.
He said 800,000 private renters have built up arrears since the ban came into force, which they would struggle to ever pay off.
"It will lead eventually to them having to leave their home and face serious damage to their credit scores," Mr Beadle said.
"The government needs to get a grip and do something about the debt crisis renters and landlords are now facing.
"A package of hardship loans and grants is needed as a matter of urgency. To expect landlords and tenants simply to muddle through without further support is a strategy that has passed its sell-by date."