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Ban on evictions extended by four weeks to 20 September

20 August 2020, 22:11

By Ben Kentish

The ban on evictions has been extended by four weeks to 20 September, the government has confirmed.

The ban was first announced on 18 March before being extended to 5 June, with ministers confirming eviction cases would resume in courts from 24 August.

However, government sources told LBC on Thursday that plans were being urgently worked up to protect tenants by extending the ban in most instances.

The exception to this will be where there is clear evidence of "egregious" behaviour, such as anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse, where there will be a resumption of cases.

On Friday, the government confirmed the move to extend the ban by four weeks to "allow for further work to be done to prepare" for the measure to be lifted.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps previously told LBC radio: "I know that getting that balance right between the renters and the landlords is something that my colleagues in the housing ministry are working closely on and I think they will make further announcements about it shortly, which I'm not privy to right now."

LBC had revealed that Robert Buckland, the Lord Chancellor, was in late discussions with judges trying to negotiate an extension. Ministers had hoped the extension would be for a "meaningful length of time" - meaning a matter of months - but the new timescale is just short of a month. 

The decision on whether to extend the policy was made by the government in conjuncture with the body Civil Procedure Rule Committee, which consists of judges, barristers and solicitors.

With Parliament currently not sitting, ministers cannot rush through legislation to protect tenants from evictions, meaning they are having to explore other avenues.

They are also likely to extend the policy of requiring landlords to give three months notice before evicting a tenant. This is currently due to expire on 30 September, after which it would return to the usual two months. 

The previous ban on eviction cases was due to expire on Sunday 23 August
The previous ban on eviction cases was due to expire on Sunday 23 August. Picture: PA

While the government believes that the vast majority of tenants have been able to continue paying their rent as usual, and others have negotiated payment holidays with landlords, the housing charity Shelter estimates that 3% of renters have fallen into arrears - equating to 227,000 people.

Last month, housing minister Lord Greenhalgh said: “From 24 August 2020, the courts will begin to process possession cases again. This is an important step towards ending the lockdown and will protect landlords’ important right to regain their property.

“Work is under way with the judiciary, legal representatives and the advice sector on arrangements, including new rules, to ensure that judges have all the information necessary to make just decisions and that the most vulnerable tenants can get the help they need when possession cases resume.”However, the change in approach follows warnings about the plight of many tenants.

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “The government has taken unprecedented action to support renters, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries – meaning no tenants have been evicted at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are working on how best to continue supporting renters and landlords during the pandemic and will make an announcement on the next steps shortly.”

The Labour Party was among those calling for the ban on eviction proceedings to be extended.

In a letter to Robert Jenrick, the Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire said: "As you know, the ban on evictions is due to end on Sunday 23rd August. In March, you promised: 'no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.'

"I am writing today asking you to set out the steps you have taken to prevent a self-made homelessness crisis at the worst possible moment, as the furlough scheme winds up and we face the risk of growing infections of coronavirus."