HCLG Select Commitee inquiry on the impact of COVID-19 on homelessness and the private rented sector – Law Society response

The inquiry

Following the implementation of Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the suspension of possession hearings until 25 June 2020, the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Select Committee launched an inquiry to evaluate the impact these measures had on:

  • the homeless
  • those who are rough sleeping
  • the private rented sector

The inquiry focused on how effective these measures were, the problems that remain a current and immediate concern for these groups, the immediate post-lockdown impacts for these groups and the action needed to help with these concerns.

Our view

We welcomed the opportunity to put forward our views on this matter. It's an extremely complex picture and we're very grateful that it's being given this consideration.

Ensuring that people are able to stay in their homes and have places to isolate safely during the pandemic is extremely important.

We therefore set out that, in the immediate short term, the measures implemented in the Coronavirus Act 2020 and in Practice Direction 51Z were justified.

We were also very supportive of the measures being taken by the local authorities and other organisations to ensure that the homeless and those who are rough sleeping were provided with temporary accommodation to keep them safe during lockdown. This was a monumental effort and must be acknowledged.

However, we expressed concern for the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the private rented sector, the homeless and those who are rough sleeping and the need to put forward measures to tackle these issues.

These concerns include:

  • the huge rent arrears tenants may have accumulated during this period and the likelihood of them being evicted once the suspension is lifted
  • the backlog of possession cases built up while hearings were suspended
  • the impact of court closures on the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) and therefore on the legal advice available to tenants still facing eviction
  • the impact on landlords who are losing income
  • section 21 evictions once possession hearings restart
  • the uncertainty facing the homeless and rough sleepers once lockdown is lifted

Next steps

The Select Committee has issued a response.

We're considering the recommendations put forward in this report.