One million households fear losing their home as eviction ban ends

Economy Environment In the media Westminster

One million households in fear losing their homes as England’s eviction ban ended on Monday with warnings from Shelter that homelessness is set to rise “significantly”.

The temporary ban on evictions in England ended on Monday (May 31) and 400,000 renters have already received eviction notices, said the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) – “an independent social change organisation working to solve UK poverty”.

The foundation – created more than 100 years ago by a Quaker factory owner – said the end of the eviction ban risks creating “a two tier recovery” from the pandemic, with low income renters made unemployed by lockdowns and social restrictions once again hit hardest.

“We’re really worried that there will be a wave of homelessness coming through,” said JRF economist Rachelle Earwalker. Their report states there are “clear warning signs that point to a spike in evictions and homelessness as the ban lifts.

“In addition to the 400,000 already expecting to be evicted, around 450,000 households are currently in arrears with rent and almost a fifth of this group (18%) have been in arrears for more than four months, meaning landlords in England will only be required to give four weeks’ notice of eviction when the ban lifts.”

Furthermore, one million households – 11% of all renters – are “worried that they may lose their homes” while 1.7 million are “worried about paying their rent in the next three months.”

The report reminds that unemployment is forecast to peak after this period and is set to be compounded by the end of both the furlough scheme and the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, and states: “It is deeply worrying that so many renters are concerned about eviction before these protections are withdrawn.”

Eviction ban ends, bailiffs resume

A full ban on evictions was introduced in March 2020 and initially ran until September. It returned as part of a “winter truce” at Christmas and bailiffs have been stopped from carrying out evictions since the start of 2021.

Bailiff enforced evictions will now resume and notice periods – introduced to provide renters with time to prepare for eviction – have been cut from six to four months.

The BBC quote one renter who is in arrears saying their landlord has “the power to just flick their finger and get me out” while landlords have spoken about their problems repaying buy-to-let mortgages without collecting rent.

When the end of the ban was announced on May 12, housing minister Christopher Pincher said tenants will still be supported with longer notice periods while landlords will be able to “access justice”.

Labour’s Lucy Powell, the shadow housing secretary said her party “has warned time and again that ending the evictions ban in this way is gambling with people’s livelihoods and life chances.”

Powell called on the housing secretary to “keep his promise that nobody will lose their home because of coronavirus”.

The chief executive of Shelter has warned homelessness is highly likely to rise “significantly”.

Eviction notice received on day of parents funeral

The Big Issue spoke to Lisa Harding, a 49-year-old furloughed hotel worker who received a section 21 notice – aka an impending no-fault eviction – on the morning of her parents’ funeral.

“My world just got turned upside down,” said Harding, whose 72-year-old mother died from coronavirus on February 4. Five days later, her father, 74, died.

“I couldn’t go to the funeral and I had to watch it on my laptop in my bedroom. Nothing, nothing quite prepares you for seeing two coffins being wheeled into a crematorium 196 miles away.

“And at eight o’clock on the morning of the funeral, the letting agents snuck a hand-delivered envelope through my door that contained a section 21 in it. It was a pretty rubbish day. I just did not know what on earth was going on, I was completely untethered.”

Harding has kept up with all rent payments yet fears becoming homeless on September 25 when her eviction date arrives and furlough ends. Her status is hampering her attempts to find a new place to rent having already scuppered attempts to get a mortgage to buy her two bed home from her landlord.

“I’m 49 years old, but I’ve worked my entire life. I’ve never been in this position before,” said Harding, adding: “But I’m absolutely terrified. In all of my life, despite other challenges and being made redundant, I’ve always found a way to be able to pay my rent and keep my roof over my head.

“I’m relatively lucky in that I hopefully have a job to go back to. But if you don’t, what on earth are they going to do about that? No job, no home, we are looking at a terrifying cliff edge.”

Average house price booms £24,000 in one year

Meanwhile, it’s less than two weeks since the flurry of headlines on the UK’s average house price rocketing £24,000 in the past year.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) said the average UK property price is now at its highest ever level, £256,000 – following a 10.2% increase between March 2020 and March 2021, equivalent to £2,000 per month.

It is the biggest surge in house prices since August 2007, the ONS report states with London recording the lowest annual growth for the fourth consecutive month.

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