My Lords, I declare my interest as outlined in the register. I really appreciate the need to balance the rights of landlords and those of tenants, and realise that the Government have put policies in place with an overarching aim to do so during the Covid-19 crisis. However, the recent increase in the rate of Covid infections has led to further sanctions to prevent transmission, as outlined by the Prime Minister and leaders of the devolved nations yesterday. This is not the time to accelerate the eviction of people in arrears associated with the financial challenges they may have experienced due to job losses or salary reduction over the last six months, or, as so ably put by my noble friend Lady Greengross, because they have mental health problems or caring responsibilities.
Generation Rent estimates that there are 55,000 renters at risk of eviction. I ask the Minister this: do the Government have an estimate of the numbers of these households that contain children of school age? Any such children would be disproportionately affected in their studies through eviction at this time. Can the Government do something further to protect such families from eviction for the next six months?
Some landlords wish to sell properties because of the current high values of homes and the reduction in stamp duty. Could Her Majesty’s Government consider novel approaches to reduce evictions during the ongoing Covid challenge and secure tenancies by, for example, a stamp duty holiday for the purchasers of properties where a landlord delays sale until after March 2021, or by offering interest-free loans to landlords until debts can be resolved?
Crisis is calling for three actions from the Government to protect renters who are facing homelessness: immediately introducing emergency legislation to give judges discretion to prevent evictions where tenants have accrued rent arrears because of Covid-19; providing financial support to help tenants pay back debts in order to remain in their current homes; and amending the benefit cap to add protection for people threatened by homelessness. Can the Minister inform the House whether the Government are actively considering the suggestions from Crisis at this time?