A BAN on bailiffs evicting renters in England has been extended until the end of March to prevent thousands from losing their homes.
The ban, which was introduced to protect private renters during the first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, was due to end on February 22.
Renters have been given an extra six weeks of protection from eviction
The change in law means that landlords cannot serve eviction notices and bailiffs cannot carry out repossessions except in extreme circumstances.
It means the earliest renters can be evicted by in March 14, as at least two week’s notice is usually given.
Initially billed as a short-term measure, the ban was regularly extended till the end of September.
But less than two months after it was lifted, the Government paused eviction enforcement again over the Christmas period.
Most recently, it was pushed back from January 11 when the Government had planned on lifting it.
Landlords that want to evict tenants are required to give at least a six-month notice period to tenants until March 31.
There are some exceptions to the rules, but the government says this is only for the “most serious” cases.
For instance, courts will continue to prioritise cases involving anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation and perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector.
Other examples where evictions can still be enforced include death of a tenant where the property is unoccupied, fraud and extreme rent arrears equivalent to six months’ rent.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We have taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic, including introducing a six-month notice period and financial support to help those struggling to pay their rent.
“By extending the ban on the enforcement of evictions by bailiffs, in all but the most serious cases, we are ensuring renters remain protected during this difficult time.
“Our measures strike the right balance between protecting tenants and enabling landlords to exercise their right to justice.”
National Residential Landlords Association chief executive Ben Beadle warned the announcement was storing up future problems.
He said 800,000 private renters have built up arrears since the ban came into force, which they would struggle to ever pay off.
“It will lead eventually to them having to leave their home and face serious damage to their credit scores,” he said.
“The Government needs to get a grip and do something about the debt crisis renters and landlords are now facing.”
Shelter said its research shows almost almost 445,000 private renting adults in England have fallen behind on their rent or been served with some kind of eviction notice in the last month.
Chief executive Polly Neate said: “This short extension to the bailiff ban may keep people safe for now, but it’s not an answer to the evictions crisis.”
She added: “Before the ban is lifted, the Government must give renters a real way out of debt.
“That means a lifeline of emergency grants to help pay off ‘Covid-arrears’ so people can avoid the terrifying risk of eviction altogether.”
Rules on eviction bans are different for tenants in Wales and Scotland as housing is a matter for the devolved governments.
Tenants in Wales are being told to take out a low-interest government loan to pay off rent arrears built up because of the pandemic to avoid eviction.
The UK government is being urged to follow Wales’ lead and launch a similar loan initiative to help renters in England.