Rented Homes: End of Evictions Ban

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:32 pm on 22nd July 2020.

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Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Secretary of State for Housing 1:32 pm, 22nd July 2020

I thank the Minister for that response, but it really will not do, because he knows that his proposals are toothless. Eviction law remains intact, so extra information about the tenant will not prevent people from losing their home, and in the middle of a public health crisis. In a Government statement on 18 March, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said:

“The Government is clear—no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.”

Labour wants to hold him to this.

The evictions ban ends on 23 August. The Government have failed to plan for what happens next. That failure looks set to lead to evictions and homelessness this autumn. Data from Citizens Advice and others indicates millions of households are struggling with rent. Current law makes evictions mandatory, with no court discretion, if tenants are in two months’ of arrears under ground 8, section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, and discretionary evictions can still be made under section 21, which the Government have promised to abolish but so far have not done so. They could have prevented people from falling into arrears by adjusting social security or bringing in emergency temporary legal changes, but they have chosen not to.

What assessment have the Government made of likely numbers of people facing homelessness? What consideration have they given to public health, with possibly thousands of households becoming homeless as we go into winter? What resources have they provided to councils for the cost of additional advisers and emergency and other accommodation? Will the Minister admit that yesterday’s practice direction will make no material difference to the outcomes for tenants with arrears, as eviction laws remain unchanged?

The Government made a promise. This is not just affecting antisocial tenants; it is affecting people struggling now. Nobody benefits from renters becoming homeless, nor mortgage payers struggling with the end of the deferral scheme. We have called on the Government repeatedly to act. It is not too late to extend the ban and sort out the legal changes in September. For the sake of everyone whose home is at risk, and everyone who cares, I urge them to act now.