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BORIS JOHNSON has “broken his promise” to tenants by failing to ban evictions and suspend rent for 20 million people who face financial hardship during the global pandemic, Labour said today.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the emergency Coronavirus Bill simply offers “extra time” for tenants to “pack their bags” rather than the protection from eviction that Labour pushed for.
Last week, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said that emergency legislation would “suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place.”
No new possession proceedings, through applications to the court, were to begin during the crisis, promised the ministry, while it also protected landlords by extending the three-month mortgage-payment holiday to buy-to-let mortgages.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick had vowed that “no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.”
But the legislation proposed today as an amendment to the Coronavirus Bill, first introduced to Parliament on Monday, fails to deliver on those promises to renters, Labour said.
The amendment would give tenants extra notice of an eviction, but does not stop eviction notices being served.
Many tenants get two months’ notice of eviction currently, and the Coronavirus Bill proposes to extend that period to three months, during which they would be liable for full rental payments.
Mr Healey said it “beggars belief” that the government “is not willing to make this simple change.”
“We even wrote to ministers to give them the legislation that would provide the protections renters need — to ban evictions and suspend rental payments beyond the crisis,” he said.
“This is the help already promised for struggling home-owners from government and mortgage lenders.
“Coronavirus is a public-health emergency, it need not become a crisis of housing and homelessness too. But this will happen if the government continues to refuse to take the most basic steps to keep people in their homes.”
Housing campaign group Generation Rent’s Caitlin Wilkinson condemned the promise to enforce a “complete ban” as “disingenuous.”
Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of consumer charity Citizens Advice, said that the government rowing back on its promise will see many people dealing with “unimaginable financial uncertainty” facing the prospect of eviction.
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