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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:13 pm on 23rd September 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Kennedy of Cradley Baroness Kennedy of Cradley Non-affiliated 2:13 pm, 23rd September 2020

My Lords, I declare an interest as the director of Generation Rent. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for tabling these Motions, both of which I support. Because of the pandemic, rent debt is piling up for thousands of renters. Yes, the Government have given welcome support, but the scale of the rent-debt crisis means that much more is needed. Rent arrears have doubled, and that is before the end of the furlough scheme. However, when the Government were asked what estimates they have made of the number of private renters in arrears as a result of the pandemic, they were unable to answer. Therefore, I ask the noble Earl to answer that question today.

In addition, will he agree to review why the Government do not collect data on the number of Section 1 notices served or how often different grounds for eviction are used, especially as Sections 21 and 8—ground 8—are mandatory grounds for eviction, over which judges need to be given discretion? Without this, the information on Covid-19 that the Government have asked to be supplied cannot be used to good effect. The lack of government data on private renters as regards evictions has led to gaps in support, such as the issue raised today by the noble Baroness, Lady Grender.

Yes, the Government have given a six-month notice period, but it applies only to renters giving notice from 29 August. If you were handed a notice before this date, the six-month extension does not apply. If reactivated, your eviction will progress. Therefore, will the noble Earl agree to review and remedy this gap in support?

In conclusion, the situation for many renters is as follows: if they have little or no income, or not enough benefits to cover their rent, what are they to do? The rent just cannot be paid. If you are then asked to leave your property by your landlord but have accumulated rent debt, how do you move on? How do you get a deposit for a new home? How do you find a landlord who will take you on? Unless the Government step in with additional legislative and financial support, which will help renters and landlords alike, homelessness is the only option for many renters with rent debt and eviction notices. I urge the Government to act.