A Conservative manifesto pledge to ban no-fault evictions for renters has been postponed until there is a “stable economic” terrain, a government minister has admitted.
The comments from Christopher Pincher, a housing minister, came amid calls on the government to extend the moratorium on evictions for tenants as the country faces a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Charities and campaigners have also urged no-fault evictions (Section 21 notices) – allowing landlords to serve notice and evict tenants without reason – to be scrapped to alleviate the pressures facing renters.
Boris Johnson vowed to abolish Section 21 at the December election and included the commitment in a proposed Renters’ Reform Bill outlined at the Queen’s Speech following his decisive victory at the ballot box.
When pressed on the commitment, Mr Pincher said the government remains committed to repealing no-fault evictions, but added: “We will do that at the appropriate time when there is a sensible and stable economic and social terrain on which to do it.”
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP who raised the issue in an urgent question, said the expiration of the eviction ban on Monday would result in the “immediate danger” of thousands of renters losing their homes.
"The ban on possession proceedings had given many private renters protection against the economic impact of coronavirus, at least the roof over their heads couldn't be taken away,” he said.
"These are the 55,000 served eviction notices between March and August. Their landlords were not required to give six months' notice and so courts could be processing their eviction orders as I speak."
Labour’s shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire also described the end of the eviction moratorium as “scandalous”, adding: "As with testing, this Government had summer to develop their plan and wasted it. They now choose to withdraw the protection of the evictions ban exactly when it's most needed.
"We're likely to see a rise in evictions and homelessness because of this Government incompetence. The Government must act now to prevent a wave of evictions just as Covid is rising this winter, and honour their promise to landlords and renters."
However, the minister claimed the government had “honoured its promise to landlords and to renters”, adding: "The Government has taken unprecedented action to support renters by banning evictions for six months, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping business to pay salaries."
He went on: "We've now introduced comprehensive measures to ensure renters continue to be protected over the autumn and winter, following the resumption of possession proceedings on Monday. However we must strike a balance so that landlords are able to access justice alongside measures to protect the vulnerable. This is vital to the long-term health of the private-rented sector."
Mr Pincher said the judiciary will "look to prioritise the most serious cases, including anti-social behaviour, fraud and egregious rent arrears".
“To help keep people in their homes over the winter, we've changed the law, increasing notice periods to six months, in all but the most serious cases,” he added.