The Prime Minister responded to a question from Labour Leader, Sir Kier Starmer in the House of Commons on 6 January 2021 stating that the eviction ban, due to come to an end next week, remains “under review”.
A ban on evictions was first introduced in March 2020 at the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak in order to buffer tenants facing financial hardship due to the pandemic. The ban, which put a halt to Courts hearing eviction cases, was extended several times until it was eventually lifted in September.
When it was lifted, the most egregious cases, such as cases of anti-social behaviour, began being heard in Court, though the backlog remains significant.
When the second National Lockdown was introduced in November 2020 a stop was put in place on bailiff enforcement during that period. This was followed by a “Christmas truce”, which was introduced on 11 December 2020 and is due to end on 11 January 2021.
Campaigners and housing bodies are urging the Government to reinstate a full ban on eviction in England again, arguing that it is too dangerous to evict people from their homes. Charities were warning before Christmas the wave of evictions to come would be severe, with estimates that 700 thousand households were already in arrears as at November 2020.
Whether there is an eviction ban or not, what the Government’s action fails to deal with the fundamental problem of rent debt. Many renters and Landlords are facing significant struggles through no fault of their own. However, no grants or other support has been provided to alleviate this issue. The National Residential Landlords Association and other parties are urging the Government to consider helping renters and landlords to sustain homes by providing loans or grants or making adjustments to Universal Credit or Local Housing Allowance.
It feels inevitable that there will be further extensions to the eviction ban, no doubt announced at the last minute next week. However, there is only so long that the Government can continue to kick the can along the road before the fundamental underlying issue of rental debt accruals needs to be dealt with one way or another.