Thousands of families 'face Christmas eviction if ban is not extended'

21 August 2020, 00:01

Thousands of families could be evicted as Christmas approaches
Thousands of families could be evicted as Christmas approaches. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Thousands of families could lose their homes around Christmas time if the Government chooses not to extend the eviction ban, charities have warned.

The warning comes ahead of any announcement of an extension, although LBC understands this is imminent.

Shelter said by the end of June some 174,000 renters had been warned by their landlord they are facing eviction - and 58,000 moved out after being asked to leave during the lockdown despite the ban.

If the ban - which has been protecting renters from evictions since March - were to end on Monday as planned, charities are warning that tens of thousands of outgoing tenants could be unable to find or access affordable homes, prompting a "devastating homelessness crisis".

It also warned that almost a quarter of a million renters had fallen behind on their rent by the end of June and has called on the Government to extend the ban and introduce further measures to protect renters.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said time is "fast running out" for the Government to act and warned that judges would be "powerless" to intervene in many cases.

She told reporters: "The knock-on effect of this will be really severe. It's not something that we're going to see next week, but it's something that we'll see in the coming months, as winter sets in and around Christmas time. That's when we could see lots of people being evicted.

"If we're entering into a deep recession, this is not the time that we want to risk having thousands of people approaching overstretched homelessness services that cannot hope to provide them with the safe homes they'll need."

The move has even seen celebrities - such as judge and ITV star Robert Rinder - intervene and call for an extension to the ban on what he called "Covid evictions".

The charity is calling for judges to be given discretion on handling cases involving coronavirus, for the benefits cap to be lifted and for housing allowance to be further increased.

The District Councils' Network (DCN) - a cross-party group of 187 district councils which is part of the Local Government Association - warned the true number of people at risk of eviction in the coming months could actually be half a million.

Councillor Giles Archibald, the DCN's Better Lives spokesman, said: "As the cliff edge nears, little has been done to ensure the welfare system will support those vulnerable families at risk of homelessness, and we are now at the precipice without a plan."

Without action, the group warns the country will see rising homelessness "heaped on top of an economic catastrophe" due to Covid-19.

Read more: Government warned one million jobs will be lost by 'premature' ending of furlough

Another charity, Crisis, said on Thursday that extending the ban was the "obvious" choice amid rising unemployment and future uncertainty.

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said the ban should remain in place "well into next year", but that if this does not happen the Government must introduce other measures.

A potential spike in the number of homeless people comes amid major rise in unemployment
A potential spike in the number of homeless people comes amid major rise in unemployment. Picture: PA Images

He told reporters: "If we go back to precisely the same set of affairs, set of circumstances and policies and financial support and legislation that we had pre-pandemic, we're going to get the same outcomes, except they're going to be even worse, because a lot of people are going to be impacted economically by the pandemic.

"So this is one of the most worrying moments I think there's been."

The National Residential Landlords Association, however, claims it is wrong to assume every tenant in arrears due to Covid-19 is at automatic risk of eviction and said extending the ban is not necessary.

It said it is unlikely there will be a rush of possession hearings come Monday, with landlords who lodged claims before early August required to issue a reactivation notice and waiting 21 days' notice before the case can be heard.

County courts will need to adapt to social distancing measures which will affect the volume of cases that can be heard, while there is also a backlog of cases due to be brought before the pandemic.

They must also set out the effect of the pandemic on the tenant or risk proceedings being adjourned, meaning any cases will unlikely be heard until mid-September.

It is understood the most serious cases will be prioritised, such as those where extreme arrears have built up, or those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse.