Social welfare and housing

Tenants facing homelessness as eviction ban ends must get legal aid support, warn solicitors' leaders

News the UK government will end its eviction ban today and taper down emergency measures from June has raised fears that, with the re-emergence of possession orders, a greater risk of homelessness will come.

Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a testing time for landlords and tenants alike. As we mark the end of the eviction ban, we urge the UK government to be cautious of next steps and to act in the best interests of the public.”

Arrears got worse for 40% of people already struggling with rent before the pandemic hit.*

In November to December 2020, 9% of private renters – 350,000 households – were in arrears, up from 3% in 2019 to 2020.**

I. Stephanie Boyce added: “Legal advice must be available to all tenants facing eviction from their homes, no matter the circumstances surrounding the eviction, particularly when homelessness is a likely outcome. The earlier the advice can be received the better.

“While all efforts should be made to keep tenants and landlords talking and to ensure court litigation is undertaken as a last resort, caution should continue to be exercised around replacing legal advice with mediation.

“While the cases of COVID-19 have significantly reduced, the economic impacts of the pandemic continue. A balancing of tenant and landlord rights, therefore, needs to continue to be undertaken.”

Notes to editors

* Figures taken from Citizens Advice, which surveyed 6,004 adults living in the UK (1,305 were private renters). They were surveyed between 12 and 25 November 2020.

** Findings from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Household Resilience Study: Wave 2 report, November to December 2020.

The mediation pilot was launched on 1 February 2021.

Read more about the Housing Possession Mediation Service

On 1 June, notice periods will change from six months to four months for most tenants.

14 days’ notice is required before an eviction can take place.

No evictions are expected to take place before mid-June, except in the most serious circumstances including: domestic abuse in the social sector, breach of immigration rules and false statement.

Notice periods for cases where there are four or more months of unpaid rent will reduce to two months’ notice from 1 August.

Read the MHCLG’s release on notice periods

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