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Stop Evictions sign

Stop Evictions sign. Photo: Lynn Friedman / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

An estimated 400,000 renters are due to be evicted because the Tories care more about protecting landlord profits than those hit hardest by the pandemic, writes Terina Hine

The ban on evictions has ended. Today hundreds of thousands of families will have bailiffs banging at their doors and face the prospect of being made homeless over the summer.

The blanket ban on repossessions, introduced during the early days of the pandemic was replaced last September by a watered down ban on bailiff enforced eviction. Today that too comes to an end in England[1]. The bailiffs are back and the notice period required to evict has been reduced from 6 months to 4. By the end of the summer notice periods will be reduced further to the pre-Covid norm of 1-2 months.

An estimated 400,000 renters have either been served with an eviction notice or expect to receive one in the coming days. An additional 1 million fear the bailiffs will come knocking in the next three months. Over half of these have children. Perhaps a government which tried so hard to avoid feeding the nation's hungry children only a year ago should not be expected to house them as well?

Research by the Resolution Foundation has revealed that almost half a million UK families have fallen behind in rent payments as a result of the pandemic. This is in addition to the 300,000 who were already in arrears prior to the Coronavirus crisis. Whether because of job losses, reduced income or illness the health crisis has resulted in a rent-debt crisis in which hundreds of thousands face the prospect of being kicked out of their homes.

Ministers like to paint a picture of renters abusing the good will of their landlords, with Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher saying ending the eviction ban will enable landlords “access to justice” with the opportunity to claim rent arrears or reclaim their property. The third of tenants who have been forced to borrow to try to meet their rent payments or the 20% of renters making cuts to their food or heating costs in an attempt to fund their rent go unmentioned.

The government claims the increases in Universal Credit and greater access to housing benefit provides the necessary help - but the figures prove otherwise. According to Shelter 72% of private tenants are living in fear of being made homeless.

Landlords have had mortgage holidays, rarely passed on to their tenants, and although these have now come to an end, many banks are still helping property owners by agreeing to pause payments or reduce interest rates or by granting mortgage extensions. Landlords are “encouraged” to be sympathetic to their renters, but without the backing of the law there is little expectation that much sympathy will be forthcoming.

At the beginning of 2021 only 3% of families in private rental accommodation had managed to negotiate reduced rent during the pandemic and one in 20 renters had their request for rent reduction refused. So renters should not expect much in the way of voluntary assistance if struggling to pay the rent.

The government has provided generous tax breaks for those with capital in the form of a stamp duty holiday, under the guise of helping generation rent onto the housing ladder. The reality is that most renters cannot afford a downpayment nor do they have the opportunity to save due to the high cost of renting - even those on high salaries.

So rather than helping the housing crisis these tax breaks have made it worse by fuelling the largest increase in house prices in over seven years. According to the Nationwide house prices have risen by 10.9% in the last year. An huge increase in capital for those lucky enough to be on the housing ladder already.

While homeowners and landlords make a killing, a quarter of all private renters have suffered a fall in income, and with fears of rising unemployment in 2021, especially among the young, the crisis of rent arrears will only deepen. With the end of the eviction ban it won’t take long before it becomes a crisis of homelessness.

Councils are beginning to raise the alarm about the impact evictions will have on already over-stretched services. Funding to support rent arrears and help prevent a homelessness epidemic coming on the back of the Covid pandemic is urgently needed.

Back in March 2020 the government said that people who lost income in the pandemic wouldnt lose their home, but in the coming weeks and months that is exactly what will happen. But ministers have made their position clear: as ever profit for the landlord trumps the right to safe and secure housing.

Demand a new normal at the People's Assembly National Demonstration on 26 June

 

[1] In Scotland the ban will run until 30 September in areas under level 3 & 4 restrictions and in Wales until 30 June, subject to regular reviews.

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