The government has extended its suspension of evictions for a further two months until 23 August to protect renters from losing their homes due to COVID-19-related financial pressures.
The two-month extension, which will come into force on 23 June, takes the moratorium up to a total of five months after the government announced an initial three-month ban on evictions of social and private tenants back in March.
Ministers say they are also working with the judiciary on new rules to help courts better protect the interests of landlords and tenants after the ban ends.
While the extension will offer millions of renters greater protection for at least a few more months, charities have urged the government to follow up the measure to prevent a rise in homelessness once the ban is lifted.
The housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Eviction hearings will not be heard in courts until the end of August and no-one will be evicted from their home this summer due to coronavirus.
“We are also working with the judiciary on proposals to ensure that when evictions proceedings do recommence, arrangements, including rules, are in place to assist the court in giving appropriate protections for those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus – including those tenants who have been shielding.”
The government’s two-month extension of the ban is far shorter than the length of extension sought by the Labour Party, which has called for the ban to be expanded until the end of the year.
The government has reiterated its expectation that landlords and tenants should work together to agree ‘flexible payment plans’ where tenants do find themselves in rent arrears, which bear in mind tenants’ individual circumstances.
However, to date, ministers have not provided any concrete guidelines on what form such payment plans should take.
The Local Government Association (LGA) welcomed the extension of the evictions ban, saying it would help councils to mitigate the rising homelessness pressures that COVID-19 has put them under.
Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s housing spokesperson, said: “We would like to see the government follow this by bringing forward its pledge to end ‘no fault evictions’ and committing to maintaining Local Housing Allowance rates at the lowest third of market rents so that tenants have greater security and households can meet their housing costs.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of the homelessness charity Shelter, described the extension as ‘only a stop-gap’, warning that it will not help tenants who have racked up rent arrears and face automatic eviction as soon as the ban lifts.
Neate said: “It’s critical that Robert Jenrick uses this extension wisely to change the law and properly protect renters.
“Judges must be given the power to stop people losing their homes because of coronavirus, otherwise the country will face a tidal wave of homelessness after the summer. Sooner or later, the government has to stop kicking the can down the road.”