New measures to protect landlords and tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic include a ban on evictions with immediate effect. Landlords may eventually start proceedings to evict tenants again, but this won’t be possible for at least three months.
The move has been dubbed a “mortgage holiday” by some, in which tenants facing financial difficulties have some security about their living arrangements.
The unprecedented step has been taken to prevent renters in social or private accommodation being forcibly removed from their homes during what the government describes as a difficult time.
It comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in the UK rises above 2,626 – in order to contain the virus, transport networks are starting to be closed bit by bit, in order to restrict movement in the coming days.
Extraordinary measures for extraordinary times
Just 11 months ago, the Government had been facing criticism for proposing to scrap no-fault evictions, as provisioned in Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
Fast-forward to March 2020, and the Government is placing a temporary pause on evictions altogether, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced policymakers to focus on the immediate issues faced in the private rental sector, such as insecure housing.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick explained the move, saying: “The Government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.”
There was support for the emergency measures from Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Landlords Association. Mr Beadle added: “Landlord groups welcome Government support. We recognise the exceptional circumstances and we will work collaboratively with the Government to ensure these measures protect both landlords and tenants.”
Calls for radical policy response
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to growing calls for radical policy responses from the Government. For example, Generation Rent, a London-based pressure group, supported measures to prevent evictions, but suggested that the Government should go even further, to protect the interests of renters.
Earlier this week, before the Government announced a ban on evictions, Generation Rent requested that the Government should end Section 8 and Section 21 evictions overnight, introduce a benefits system to stop renters from becoming homeless and freeze rents for an undetermined period.
The pressure group clarified that the end of private tenancies is one of the leading causes of homelessness, and that the much-anticipated Renters’ Reform Bill should be passed into legislation as soon as possible.
Generation Rent explained: “Together, we’re forcing the Government to listen. Overnight, almost 2,000 renters have written to their MP, calling on them to protect renters.
“We’ve been in touch with policymakers across the political spectrum to make the case for an end to evictions, a freeze on rent rises and a benefits system that is fit for purpose, and we’ll continue to fight for the right to a safe and secure home for all during the pandemic.”