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Councils express concern at potential rise in homeless households as Government confirms ban on bailiff-enforced evictions to end on 31 May

The current ban on bailiff-enforced evictions will end on 31 May, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has confirmed.

The MHCLG said that as part of a phased approach, notice periods – previously extended to 6 months as an emergency measure during the pandemic – will be set at four months from 1 June. “This will offer tenants continued protection throughout Step 3 [of the Government’s Roadmap] and into Step 4, which will begin from 21 June at the earliest.”

Subject to the public health advice and progress with the Roadmap, notice periods will return to pre-pandemic levels from 1 October.

The Ministry claimed the measures would ensure renters “continue to be protected with longer notice periods for the coming months, while allowing landlords to access justice - 45% of private landlords own just one property and are highly vulnerable to rent arrears”.

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It added that courts would continue to prioritise the most serious cases, such as those involving fraud or anti-social behaviour, with many of the evictions waiting to be enforced when the ban lifts predating the pandemic.

The MHCLG said that notice periods for the most serious cases “that present the most strain on landlords” would remain lower:

  • anti-social behaviour (immediate to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • domestic abuse in the social sector (2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • false statement (2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • over 4 months’ accumulated rent arrears (4 weeks’ notice)
  • breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (2 weeks’ notice)
  • death of a tenant (2 months’ notice)

Notice periods for cases where there is four or more months of unpaid rent, will reduce to 2 months’ notice from 1 August. “This is to support both landlords and tenants and responds to the greater difference between COVID and pre COVID notice periods for rent arrears,” the MHCLG said.

The Ministry added that 14 days’ notice is required before an eviction can take place. “Therefore, no evictions are expected to take place before mid-June except in the most serious circumstances, and bailiffs have been asked not to carry out an eviction if they have been made aware that anyone living in the property has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.”

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher said: “From the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken unprecedented action to protect renters and help keep them in their homes.

“As COVID restrictions are eased in line with the Roadmap out of lockdown, we will ensure tenants continue to be supported with longer notice periods, while also balancing the need for landlords to access justice.

“Crucial financial support also remains in place including the furlough scheme and uplift to Universal Credit.”

Responding to the announcement, Cllr David Renard, Local Government Association housing spokesperson, said: “We recognise that the ban on eviction enforcement, which provided vital reassurance to renters during the pandemic, cannot continue indefinitely. However, councils remain concerned over the potential rise in homelessness households may face, and the pressure this will add to already over-stretched homelessness services.

“It is vital there is a plan in place to support and protect households to stay in their homes, in as many cases as possible.”

Cllr Renard added: “We look forward to working with government on the detail of the Renters’ Reforms package announced in the Queen’s Speech, to ensure that everyone can live in a safe and decent home, have access to a clear redress process and not live in fear of ‘no fault’ evictions, which government should now bring forward its pledge to end.

“There should also be a renewed focus on investing in homelessness prevention services, ensuring councils have the resources to support households at risk of homelessness, including restoration of welfare funding to at least £250 million a year and a review of the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme.

“Councils also need greater ability to invest in building much-needed social housing, through further reform of Right to Buy.”

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