The government extended the tenant eviction ban for a further six weeks. How have landlords and tenants been faring throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
The tenant evictions ban was due to end on 11 January. The government has now extended this to 21 February. In England, no evictions are expected until 8 March at the earliest. Wales and Scotland have extended this to the end of March. The hope is that this will create more security for those in rented accommodation struggling in the pandemic.
Back at the beginning of the first lockdown, the government announced a ban on evictions. After the initial three-month period, the ban on tenant evictions was extended for a further two months and then four weeks were added to the scheme.
Courts started hearing repossession cases in September 2020, starting with the most serious cases.There was also a “winter” truce”. This meant evictions that were slated to take place during the local lockdown areas wouldn’t be enforced by bailiffs.
Further to this, landlords still need to give a six-month notice period to tenants at least until 31 March. The only exceptions for the notice period and evictions ban are the most serious cases. This includes anti-social behaviour and extreme rent arrears equivalent to six months’ rent.
Private landlords and tenants are working together
A previous poll conducted by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) revealed that an overwhelming majority of landlords and tenants have been working together. Over 95% of private renters continued to pay rent or had set up payment arrangements with their landlord. Private landlords have even been providing more support than social landlords, according to a recent English Housing Survey.
A survey by estate agency Barrows and Forrester also revealed 46% of tenants have not seen their financial situation worsen due to COVID-19. Only 18% of tenants stated they have struggled or failed to pay rent during the pandemic. Additionally, just 23% of landlords said their level of rental income dropped. And only 12% stated they have been unable to evict a tenant.
James Forrester, managing director of Barrows and Forrester, says: “The ban on tenant evictions is a delicate subject and both sides of the argument have valid reasons for wanting to see the ban either extended or lifted. Financial reasons brought on by the pandemic are no doubt a factor, with nearly half of tenants seeing their financial situation worsen due to the pandemic.
“However, a far smaller proportion have struggled to pay their rent and many landlords have also seen their rental income sustained which is good news for all of those operating within the sector.”
Some tenants and landlords need additional support
During these uncertain and challenging times, the NRLA has renewed its calls for the government to provide a financial package to help tenants pay off rent arrears due to the pandemic. Even though the majority of tenants are keeping up with rent payments, some are struggling. And if a tenant is unable to pay rent, landlords could end up in difficulty too.
Because of this, many feel additional support needs addressing to help both parties. In Scotland and Wales, the governments are offering loans to struggling tenants. Many are asking England to follow suit.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, comments: “The repossessions ban is a sticking plaster that will ultimately lead to more people losing their homes. It means tenants’ debts will continue to mount to the point where they have no hope of paying them off leading eventually to them having to leave their home.
“Instead the Government should recognise the crisis facing many tenants and take immediate action to enable them to pay their debts as is happening in Scotland and Wales. The objective should be to sustain tenancies in the long term and not just the short term.”
The tenant eviction ban could see an additional extension, especially if the lockdown continues past the middle of February. The government is continuing to review its measures to control the effects of the pandemic as much as possible.