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Housing groups call for law changes to prevent mass evictions

TENANT unions have warned that Britain could be heading for mass evictions and “unprecedented” homelessness once the government’s eviction ban ends.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick faced questions from the housing select committee today on how the government will continue to support tenants after the three-month moratorium on evictions is lifted on June 25.

He said a decision will be made next month on whether to extend the ban, which was introduced to prevent people losing their homes during the coronavirus crisis.

But housing groups are calling for bigger changes to ensure that renters are protected during and beyond the lockdown.

In evidence submitted to the committee, Greater Manchester Law Centre, Tenants Union and Garden Court North Chambers reported that the crisis has already pushed more than half of renters into financial difficulties.

More than 1.5 million people in Britain have applied for universal credit as a result of the pandemic, it said, with renters “more likely than ever” to fall into arrears and face eviction.

The groups urged ministers to change housing laws to ensure that renters are protected in the long run or risk a surge in homelessness “on an unprecedented scale.”

Greater Manchester Law Centre director Jason Tetley told the Morning Star: “Since lockdown began, we have seen from our continued contact with clients, new enquiries and front-line agencies that a crisis is approaching.

“The current legal protection afforded by existing legislation will not protect private tenants.”

The groups are calling for an abolition of section 21 evictions, which allow landlords to kick out tenants at the end of a fixed-term contract — usually six or 12 months — without any other grounds for eviction.

They are also calling for tenants to be granted a “rent amnesty” from March 20 until the crisis ends so that arrears built up as a result of the pandemic are excluded from rent “lawfully due” under the housing Acts.

Tenants Union housing organiser Beth Redmond told the Star: “As we have seen with the incredibly high number of universal credit applications, huge numbers of people have lost their income due to coronavirus, and it is not typical of landlords to be forgiving.

“This means mass evictions and a spike in homelessness are inevitable.”

Last week, London Councils, which represents 33 local authorities across the capital, warned of a potential “avalanche” of evictions once the ban is lifted on June 25.

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