The Labour Party has urged the government to draw up further plans to protect renters during the COVID-19 crisis with the temporary ban on evictions set to end next month.
In its five-point action plan to protect people from eviction, Labour has called for an extension of the ban – currently set to run until June – for a further six months.
The party has also said that renters should granted at least two years to pay back any rent arrears they accrue while the crisis is ongoing.
Labour’s call comes after polling for Shelter estimated that one in five private renters in England – an estimated 1.7 million people – expect to lose their jobs in the next three months due to COVID-19’s effect on the economy.
The shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said: “Current protections for people renting their homes are woefully inadequate. Unless the government acts now, many thousands of tenants will be at risk of losing their homes.”
“It will take time for people to recover from this crisis and they need all the support we can give them to prevent what would be an unprecedented and devastating spike in homelessness.”
The government announced a three-month ban on any new social or private evictions back in March as part of its initial response to the coronavirus crisis, while leaving the door open to extending the ban if necessary.
It explained that landlords and tenants would be expected to agree a ‘affordable repayment plan’ for any arrears accrued, without giving any concrete guidelines on what form such plans should take.
In addition to extending the plan and outlining a timeframe for repayment, Labour urged the government in its five-point plan to bring forward plans to scrap section 21 evictions, and to ban evictions on the grounds of rent arrears if these were accrued due to COVID-19.
The party also called for residential tenants to be given the same protections as commercial tenants, by preventing them from being made bankrupt for non-payment of rent, along with improvements to Universal Credit and Local Housing Allowance.
Debonnaire added: “In the long term we need to fix the housing crisis – with stronger rent regulations and much more affordable and social housing – so that everyone has a home that is safe, secure, environmentally sustainable, and that they can afford to live in. What we need right now is an emergency package to set us on that path.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Emergency legislation is now in place so no renter can be forced out of their home during this difficult time – landlords cannot evict for at least three months. We will keep this under review and can extend if necessary.
“We are also supporting businesses to continue paying their staff, investing £7bn in the welfare system and increasing Local Housing Allowance, which will help tenants pay their rent.”
Photo: The shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire. Credit: Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0)