The evictions ban comes under the spotlight from a number of angles today.
The housing minister says his department is working closely with the MOJ ahead of the lifting of the ban, while Generation Rent warns of a homelessness crisis. Elsewhere, ARLA Propertymark calls for a strategy from government when it comes to tackling the backlog of possession cases.
Housing and Justice departments ‘working closely’
MHCLG is “working closely” with the Ministry of Justice on arrangements to ensure that the courts are better able to address appropriate protection for those shielding from coronavirus, the Housing Minister has said in response to a written parliamentary question.
Barry Sheerman MP (Labour, Huddersfield) asked “what discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues to prevent evictions in the long term for those who have lost income as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.”
Christopher Pincher MP responded: “The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is working closely with the Ministry of Justice and the judiciary on arrangements, including new rules, to ensure that when the moratorium on evictions ends, the courts are better able to address the need for appropriate protection of all parties, including those shielding from coronavirus.
“This judicial-led work is to ensure that judges will have all the information necessary to make just decisions in the current framework and that the most vulnerable tenants will get the help they need.”
Warning on homelessness
Tenant pressure group Generation Rent has warned that more than 45,000 households could be made homeless as a result of rent arrears this year, unless action is taken by the government.
The organisation is calling for the government to introduce a new coronavirus home retention scheme, which would clear rent arrears not covered by the welfare system by allowing landlords to apply for fund covering up to 80% of the rent.
Unless this is introduced, the organisation has warned that its research shows that 45,090 households will become homeless after being evicted from a private tenancy this year. In 2019, 15,030 homes were evicted.
Generation Rent is also calling for the government to raise LHA rates and remove caps to cover median rents, as well as expanding the eligibility for Universal Credit.
Read what the NRLA has to say here.
ARLA Propertymark shares possession concerns
ARLA Propertymark has written to Robert Buckland MP, the Justice Secretary, expressing concerns for the management of housing possession cases in England and Wales when the current stay on possessions is lifted on 23 August.
David Cox, ARLA Propertymark’s Chief Executive, has said: “ARLA Propertymark believe the volume of cases that has accumulated since the stay came into force on 26 March 2020 and the impact on the private rented sector cannot be underestimated; and in order to ensure no one is denied or delayed the right to justice a robust and co-ordinated strategy must be developed as a matter of urgency.”
Mr Cox estimates that there is a potential backlog of over 60,000 “business as usual” possession claims to be processed across England and Wales, without taking into account new claims arising as a result of covid-19.
With 17 per cent of landlord claims using the accelerated procedure, 52,000 claims could require court hearings.
He adds that in 2019 68% of possession claims resulted in an order for possession being granted. This means that there is a potential backlog of 40,000 possession orders that have not yet been granted to landlords, whilst there could be 26,000 warrants for possessions yet to be granted. He says this will be put “even further pressure on an already stretched service”.
Mr Cox has called for consultation and engagement with industry bodies representing landlords and letting agents to begin as a matter of urgency.
He also wants legal advice and advocacy to be made available to all parties in possession cases at this time and the courts to be sufficiently resourced to meet the increase in demand.
The NRLA has been lobbying government on the impact of the extension of the evictions ban and support for the sector going forward and has asked members to share their experiences with their MPs as part of the ongoing campaign.