Vulnerable people could be kicked out of their homes and left to survive on the streets, in spite of a government pledge that no one will be evicted during the Coronavirus crisis, the Labour Party has warned.
Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey MP, accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of breaking a promise that no one will be forced out of their homes as the deadly virus sweeps across Britain.
Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, said last week: “The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.”
But John Healey has said in a tweet: “We’ve finally had the government’s amendment to the coronavirus bill spelling out its proposals on evictions, and I’m afraid it’s now clear Boris Johnson has broken his promise to the country’s 20 million renters.
“This is not an evictions ban, as Labour argued for, and renters were eventually promised by Boris Johnson.
“This legislation does not stop people losing their homes as a result of coronavirus, just gives them some extra time to pack their bags.”
A spokesperson claimed that any notion the Government were reneging on its promise is “absolute nonsense”.
“As soon as legislation is passed, no new possession proceedings will begin – in either the social sector or the private rented sector – for at least the next three months,” they said.
“We have the power to extend this notice period if necessary.”
However, explanatory notes released alongside the new emergency legislation admit that it “does not prevent a landlord from serving a notice of intention” to evict a household, “nor does it end a tenant’s liability for rental payments”.
Citizens Advice has echoed Labour’s concerns and called on Boris Johnson to provide a cast-iron guarantee that no one will lose their homes during this difficult time.
Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Last week, the Housing Secretary pledged ‘no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home’.
“These measures fall woefully short of that promise. Simply extending notice periods to three months cannot be seen as ‘job done’.
“It means that people dealing with unimaginable financial uncertainty still face the prospect of being served with an eviction notice.
“Over the coming days, the government must keep their promise and add to these changes to make sure no one loses the roof over their head as a result of coronavirus.”
Housing and homeless charity Shelter warned that 20,000 evictions could still go ahead as the new legislation fails to go far enough.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said on Monday: “Last week the government’s commitment to a temporary ban on evictions made renters across the country feel safer in their homes.
“But today’s watered-down measures risk homelessness and uncertainty at this worrying time.
“For the next three months as many as 20,000 eviction proceedings already in progress will go ahead, and eviction notices will continue to land on renter’s doormats.
“This means people trying to isolate or socially distance, and even some within the shielded group, could still lose their home in the coming weeks, and even more may face eviction by mid-June.
“It defies belief that while so much effort is going into a coordinated medical response to this pandemic, the government is prepared to allow so many evictions to continue – putting at risk not just those losing their homes, but also the people they are forced into contact with.
“This emergency legislation must not continue in its current form.
“We need a wholesale and complete halt to all evictions so that no-one is left without a home during this public health emergency.
“Anything less is a huge risk we do not need to take.”