The following statement from London Tenants Federation was published on Twitter on 19th March 2020:
The government’s announcement on 18th March of an eviction ban for social and private renters is woefully inadequate. Social and private tenants who stay at home under government advice must be protected not just from eviction but from rent arrears too. There is no excuse for hesitation on this.
There is nothing to stop private landlords and less scrupulous social landlords from starting an eviction process as soon as the ban is lifted. We are concerned that some buy to let landlords may abuse their mortgage holidays whilst still threatening or evicting their tenants. Councils and housing associations must also be offered resources to cover shortfalls where tenants cannot pay.
We are concerned that tenants, unlike homeowners, are being asked to pick up the bill for following the government’s advice. Social and private renters needing to sign up for Universal Credit for the first time in order to pay their rent may need to eat into their savings before they are eligible for help. The same has not been asked of the nation’s homeowners, most of whom will have already entered this period of uncertainty with significantly more wealth and savings than the average tenant.
New applicants can expect to wait five weeks or more for their first Universal Credit payment to come through. This could cause financial stress to those households, particularly during the final weeks of the eviction ban. Households affected by the Housing Benefit Cap and Bedroom Tax are also at risk of falling into arrears, as are shared owners and leaseholders who pay high service charges.
We question too whether the funding committed to help local authorities support homeless households through this outbreak is sufficient. The government’s announcement focused on rough sleepers – there are many more ‘hidden homeless’ sleeping on sofas of friends and relatives. We echo Crisis’ concerns about households living in hostels or shelter accommodation, who will find successful self-isolation close to impossible. We also support the statement made by the London Housing Panel, of which we are a member.
We are concerned too about the mental and physical health of households who are overcrowded or have damp or mould. Approximately 15% of social renters in London are overcrowded, as are many private renters. 56,950 homeless families were living in temporary accommodation in London in April-June 2019, and 43, 160 of these had children. Extreme overcrowding is typical in temporary accommodation, where separate households often share bathroom and kitchen facilities. The government must commit to providing additional resources if necessary for all households unable to self-isolate.
This outbreak has exposed the dangerous public health ramifications of the growing hole in our safety net. Persistent failure of government to build the social housing we need and ensure stable and sufficient incomes has left the least well off in society in a very vulnerable position.
What should I do if I’m facing eviction?
Shelter’s advice for private rented, council or housing association tenants is ‘stay put’:
- It is illegal if your landlord makes you leave without notice or a court order – or locks you out of your home, even temporarily
- If you have had an eviction notice from your landlord you should stay in your home
- In most cases, if an eviction notice is issued between 27 March and 30 September, the landlord must wait three months before they can apply to court
- If your landlord has already applied to court then your case will be put off for 90 days
- The court will tell you when any new hearing is but this may take some time
For individual advice contact Citizens Advice on 03444 111 444.