England: Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced emergency legislation to ensure no renters in England will be forced out of their home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Announcing a package of measures to protect renters and landlords, Mr Jenrick said the legislation will suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while the emergency is taking place.
Under the plans, which will be taken forward as an urgent priority, landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period.
The UK Government also confirmed that the three-month mortgage payment holiday announced this week will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus.
At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.
To support this announcement 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 to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible. The National Housing Federation and landlord bodies have welcomed the new support for social renters and made clear that no one should be evicted because of the coronavirus.
Those who have benefited from a government-backed Help to Buy equity loan will also be offered interest payment holidays if they are struggling to pay due to coronavirus.
Mr Jenrick said: “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.
“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.
“These changes will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time.”
In a joint statement, the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association said: “Our priority is to ensure that tenants are secure in their homes during this crisis. The three month buy to let mortgage payment holiday will take a lot of pressure off landlords enabling them to be as flexible as possible with tenants facing difficulties with their rent payments.
“No responsible landlord will be considering evicting tenants because of difficulties arising from the current situation. There does need to be some flexibility though such as with dealing with a tenant engaging in anti-social behaviour. This could cause misery for fellow tenants or neighbours especially when they are going to be spending a lot of time together.
“We would like to see further measures taken including pausing the final phase of restricting mortgage interest relief to the basic rate of income tax due in April.
“In addition we need to do all we can to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There should be national guidelines for local authorities to suspend routine inspections of properties and a temporary halt on enforcement action where landlords are unable to fulfil certain required obligations because of the health risk posed to them, tenants and contractors.”
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, added: “We understand some people living in social housing will be worried 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.
“If you are concerned about your ability to pay, please contact your housing association who will want to support you.
“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.”
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