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Ministers exercising ‘complete indifference’ to renters facing mass homelessness

THE government has been accused of exercising “complete indifference” towards hundreds of thousands of renters at risk of homelessness when the eviction ban ends. 

With just three weeks left before landlords can once again kick out tenants, renters’ unions warned yesterday that ministers have failed to put measures in place to prevent a “tsunami” of evictions. 

London Tenant Federation (LTF) stressed today that ministers have said little on the issue in recent weeks apart from vague promises outlined in a Times report behind a paywall last Saturday that “appropriate support” will be given to struggling tenants. 

“We’re left wondering if it’s stonewalling or complete indifference that’s causing inaction in the face of the ‘tsunami’ set to arrive on August 24; a tsunami which the government has had plenty of time and warning to see coming,” LTF said. 

Research by Shelter last month found that more than 220,000 renters have fallen into debt as a result of Covid-19, meaning they are at risk of losing their home when the ban is lifted on August 23. 

For months homeless charities have made calls for the ban to be extended and legislation brought in to stop landlords evicting tenants for rent arrears accrued due to Covid-19. 

Instead the government has introduced a new “pre-action protocol” which encourages landlords to discuss alternatives with tenants before embarking on eviction proceedings –a process that has been branded “toothless” by housing campaigners. 

Greater Manchester Law Centre director Jason Tetley said the government’s response “should not be deemed as either appropriate or as support.”    

“The new procedural rules allow some flexibility to courts regarding how they administer possession hearings but do not address the issue that rent arrears are a mandatory ground for eviction and more fundamentally that current housing law is skewed in favour of the landlord,” he said. 

Tenants Union organiser Beth Redmond said that ministers’ assumption that renters should “rely on the goodwill of landlords” to save them from losing their homes “shows how out of touch the government is.” 

“The government is using vague hints at respite for renters as a mask for their inaction and the renters movement isn’t falling for it,” she added. “They are claiming to legislate to protect renters but actually just ensuring that the courts can manage the high workload, meaning the predicted eviction tsunami will be prolonged even further.”

Acorn head organiser Nick Ballard said: “Despite its announcements to the contrary the government has provided no meaningful support to renters and has made it clear that they care nothing for those of us facing debt and eviction whether that be in so-called normal times or due to coronavirus.”

In a statement, the Ministry for Housing, Community and Local Government said that the government has taken “unprecedented action” to support renters during the pandemic.

“We are committed to bringing forward legislation to abolish [eviction protocol] section 21,” it said.

“In the meantime, we are working to provide appropriate support to those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus when proceedings start again, with new rules to require landlords to provide more information about their tenants' situation in light of the pandemic when seeking an eviction, with judges able to adjourn a case if this information isn’t provided.

“Legislation introduced in March requiring landlords to give all tenants three months’ notice will remain in force for possession cases, including section 21 evictions, until September 30.”

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