EMERGENCY legislation is being introduced that will ban any new evictions of social or private rented sector tenants for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
The move follows Boris Johnson’s comments earlier today at Prime Minister’s Questions that steps will be taken to protect private renters from the threat of eviction.
Now the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) has followed this with a set of measures it says will protect both renters and landlords affected by the outbreak.
“As a result, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time,” said the Ministry.
The legislation will be taken forward as an “urgent priority” and will suspend any new eviction proceedings; landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period.
“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,” said housing secretary, Robert Jenrick.
“These are extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage. Which is why we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started.”
For landlords, the Government confirmed that the three month mortgage payment holiday announced yesterday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus.
“This will alleviate the pressure on landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result,” the ministry added.
At the end of this period, the Government says “landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances”.
Furthermore, to support these measures, the Government has worked with the Master of the Rolls to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings, to include private renters and to strengthen its remit.
This will support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants to resolve disputes, and landlords will have to reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in.
The Government will also issue guidance, which asks landlords to “show compassion” and allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible. The National Housing Federation and Local Government Association have welcomed the new support for social renters and made clear that no one should be evicted because of the coronavirus.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association said: “Landlord groups welcomes government support. We recognise the exceptional circumstances and we will work collaboratively with government to ensure these measures protect both landlords and tenants.”
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, welcomed the housing secretary’s announcement. “We understand some people living in social housing will be concerned about how they’re going to pay rent, and we want to reassure them that no one in a housing association home will be evicted due to coronavirus,” she said.
“Rent is really important to not-for-profit housing associations – this money allows them to carry out essential repairs and maintenance work and provide support services to people in their homes. Where people’s circumstances change due to the coronavirus, the welfare system must step in to ensure they can pay their rent and have money to live off.
“Housing associations will continue to work closely with residents to help them manage their rent and ensure they can access all benefits they are entitled to. We want to work with government to ensure there is support in place for housing associations dealing with any loss of income from rent.”
Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “News the Government is to legislate to stop renters being evicted from their homes during the coronavirus crisis, will come as a great relief to many people. Without this decisive action tens of thousands of renters would have faced eviction in the coming months, while potentially trying to isolate and protect themselves and others.
“At Shelter we’d already heard horror stories from terrified renters threatened with eviction by irresponsible landlords, including vital NHS workers. Now this shocking behaviour will be stopped in its tracks.
“The government has done the right thing. There are 20 million renters in England who will benefit from this protection – which is a vital emergency measure to keep people safe and in their homes.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It’s reassuring to hear that the Government is planning to bring forward legislation to protect renters during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“People renting need to know that, in these uncertain times, they’ll be able to keep a roof over their head come what may. It is vital that these measures are brought forward quickly and include the immediate suspension of all evictions for social and private tenants, so that people are not put at greater risk of homelessness should they experience a loss of earnings because of the pandemic.
“Having somewhere safe and stable to live has never been more important. It is absolutely crucial that the government does everything it can to ensure that rates of homelessness do not soar because of the outbreak. We have already seen other countries implement such measures, so we urge the UK to take similar action as a matter of urgency.”