As part of the UK government’s Coronavirus relief efforts, an extension on bailiff-enforced eviction prohibition was recently confirmed.
Having previously been due to expire on January 11, communities secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed that the same legislation would now cover renters until February 21. The extension was announced to safeguard private renters encountering financial issues due to COVID-19, who may be unable to pay their rent through no direct fault of their own.
The most egregious cases can still be brought forward by landlords, such as in the case of willful property damage/destruction or withholding rent with no justification for doing so. However, the eviction of tenants due to their inability to pay their rent as a direct result of the Coronavirus crisis will be prohibited until late February.
Mr. Jenrick spoke with confidence about the extension, insisting that it would help thousands of the “most vulnerable” renters in the UK avoid eviction.
The ban was initially enforced in September, at which point the government stated that the rules and the deadline would continuously be revisited to ensure the nation’s private tenants are protected throughout the crisis.
An Uncertain Future for Private Renters
Under the current legislation, private landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants without first providing them with a minimum six-month notice period. Speaking on behalf of Citizens Advice, acting chief executive Alistair Cromwell welcomed the decision by the government to extend the deadline of the prohibition policy.
“The government has made the right decision to extend this protection,” he said.
“Renters who are struggling with arrears shouldn’t face the prospect of losing the roof over their head when everyone is being asked to stay at home.”
However, Mr. Cromwell also highlighted the fact that while the extension may offer a temporary lifeline for some, it does nothing to address the potential areas that will “continue to hang over” those affected long-term.
While the eviction ban extension enables struggling tenants to take extended payment breaks due to COVID-related financial hardship, it does nothing to address their escalating levels of debt.
This therefore means that when the eviction ban comes to an end, tenants across the country could face insurmountable debt with no additional financial support having yet been outlined by the government.
“For tenants, accruing arrears cannot be ignored,” commented Oli Sherlock, head of insurance at lettings platform Goodlord.
“These debts will eventually catch-up with them and the small proportion who aren’t engaging proactively with their landlords will eventually find themselves facing county court judgements, which can have a long-term impact on their credit ratings.”
National Residential Landlords Association chief executive, Ben Beadle, echoed Mr. Sherlock’s sentiments, calling on the government to implement measures to support private renters long-term, not just for the next few weeks or months.
“It means tenants’ debts will continue to mount to the point where they have no hope of paying them off leading eventually to them having to leave their home,” he said.
“The objective should be to sustain tenancies in the long term and not just the short term.”