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Renters in England Are Braced for Mass Evictions

A Ban on Evicting Private Tenants during Covid-19 Pandemic Ends this Weekend

Letting agents boards in London, March 2016.  © Anthony Devlin/Press Association via AP Images

The eviction ban in England expires this coming weekend and some people in privately rented housing, who have been hit by the economic downturn triggered by Covid-19 and fallen behind on their rent, are waiting nervously to discover their fate.

Some families will face devastating consequences including eviction, homelessness, and disruption to education, employment, and family life.

The UK government’s ban on evictions for private tenants was implemented as the pandemic took hold in March, and had been due to expire in June. But after an outcry from housing rights groups, the government extended the moratorium to August 23.

Nichola McClean, a key healthcare worker, told ITV News that she fell behind on her rent after she was briefly furloughed – her job held open but at lower pay – during the pandemic, and served with an eviction notice in June. Nicola is now back at work and paying rent plus arrears, but she and her two daughters face eviction from their home of 10 years and potential homelessness if the ban is not extended. If the family is offered temporary accommodation elsewhere, it is likely to be many miles away and could disrupt her daughter’s education and lead her to lose her job.

English law allows private landlords to evict tenants with a written notice, and while notices have been issued during the pandemic, they have, so far, not been enforced due to the ban.

Given the current financial crisis, with thousands struggling to pay rent because of job losses or health issues, there is a clear need to extend the ban and ensure the right to adequate housing for everyone.

Allowing it to lapse now would activate evictions approved in March – before the ban – and lead to an avalanche of new evictions due to failure to pay rent. Extending the eviction ban, especially in cases of financial hardship related to Covid-19, ensures that the most vulnerable tenants – including single parents such as Nichola – are protected.

The government should be finding long-term solutions on housing. It should expand existing financial initiatives to help renters hardest hit by Covid-19 to overcome their rent arrears, and continue to provide accommodation for people experiencing homelessness.

The UK government has taken some steps during the pandemic to end homelessness. Allowing the evictions ban to lapse now would undermine its efforts.

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