My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Ponsonby’s proposal that the court should have discretion to consider all the circumstances in relation to eviction orders in this terrible time. I also support the creation of an effective landlord-tenant mediation service and the kind of emergency funding that people have referred to in this debate.
The Government were clearly right to impose an evictions moratorium and to extend it. However, we now have the worst of all worlds, with the combination of the lifting of that moratorium and a tightening of general restrictions, the ending of the furlough scheme and an increase in business closures, all of which will mean more lost jobs and precarious incomes.
We are faced with tens of thousands of evictions of renters in the pipeline, a large proportion of whom have never previously been in rent arrears or engaged in anti-social behaviour. Many will inevitably swell the ranks of the unemployed. Therefore, my noble friend Lord Ponsonby’s Motion is the one to support here, but there are also, of course, longer-term and fundamental issues. The structure of social security under universal credit—and the interplay between the various elements—is clearly not fit for purpose in this context.
On the housing market, I note that the absence of more secure alternatives to private renting has meant a massively increased reliance on that sector, enhanced by the tax advantages of buy to let, which has created a range of amateur landlords who cannot afford or do not know how to take account of their tenants’ precarious incomes. Other countries with a high dependence on private renting have stronger legal protection and significant institutional elements in the market. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, and others, I am in favour of a big increase in council housing, but the objective should also be to professionalise and institutionalise the private rental market.