Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 - Motion for an humble Address

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:55 pm on 23rd September 2020.

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Photo of The Earl of Lytton The Earl of Lytton Crossbench 1:55 pm, 23rd September 2020

My Lords, my involvement in the private rented sector is parliamentary, personal and professional. I saw the freeze on evictions as a necessary but blunt instrument due to the prevailing immediacy of circumstances and for good order, given judicial incapacity. Landlords and tenants, lenders and borrowers, the honest and the less so, and many pre-existing or unrelated issues were swept up in this. However, coronavirus cannot go on being cited for all ills.

I might have supported the Motion to Regret and the Motion for an humble Address to annul the rules had it been possible to distinguish a genuine balance of Covid-related hardship from more opportunistic practices, or indeed from unrelated pre-Covid matters. I could have done so had it been clear, on fair assessment, that the balance of hardship was invariably in favour of protecting renters and maintaining the freeze. However, I am not convinced. I note that over 60% of private rented sector landlords are owners of but one rented property. Perhaps the owner wanting to reoccupy their sole rented home, the pensioner, possibly in care and reliant on the rental income from their former home, and the buy-to-let borrower also need fair treatment or we risk serious consequences. The sector needs protection from poor tenants and poor landlords alike.

Covid ultimately affects our entire existence and economy, and we have to get back to normal somehow or other. I accept that the Government might offer financial assistance, which would ease the issue, and I would support that, but I feel that it is probably out of scope and I certainly do not believe that it is a cure-all.

Rocks and hard places apart, matters cannot just drift. The eviction freeze comes with moral hazards and abuses, and must revert to case-by-case assessment of the individual circumstances, so that landlords and tenants are subject to independent adjudication. Therefore, although the Government need to demonstrate an approach to the lacuna referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, I follow the reasoning and conclusions of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor.