On 18 March 2020 under a press release headline “Complete ban on eviction and additional protection for renters” Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said:

“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.

“These are extraordinary times, and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage.

“Which is why we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started.”

Yet we are hearing today, 23 March 2020, that in fact the legislation amounts solely to an extension to three months of the notice period required for possession proceedings to commence.  That is not legislation to prevent an eviction process being started. Put at its highest it is grace period of one month and is entirely inadequate to the crisis at hand.

Former HLPA Chair Giles Peaker has posted the detail and his analysis here https://nearlylegal.co.uk/2020/03/emergency-legislation-on-possession-claims/

The MHCLG has dangerously misunderstood the scale of the crisis facing tenants and other renters, both immediately and in the future. We all face financial insecurity as well as the health crisis over the coming months.

The government’s overwhelming priority should be to keep people safe and keep people secure during the period of the crisis.

The policy fails to get to grips with the very simple fact that ordinary people need the security of their homes in order to keep safe in a pandemic.  Furthermore, the public good lies in people remaining secure in their homes and not being forced to seek new accommodation with all the social contact that implies.

A household receiving a notice of possession proceedings would have to start to look for new accommodation immediately, regardless of the fact that the notice gives three months before court proceedings will commence.  It is staggering that the government does not recognise that.

In addition, there is nothing that protects renters in more insecure forms of letting arrangements such as lodgers and many people in HMOs. Again, if those people have to leave their homes because of the inaction of the government then they are extremely unlikely to be able to follow the current guidance on social distancing as they find somewhere else to live.  Many will not find anywhere to live and will add to the shameful increase in street homelessness.

The government needs to come to its senses and bring forward measures that properly protects all renters and in so doing protects the whole public.  We call for:

* A moratorium on all and any steps to evict tenants and licensees for a period of three months with an option to extend as necessary, including service of notices, commencement of possession proceedings, all orders for possession of any kind and all and any steps to execute any possession order

* Measures to prevent rent and licence fees accumulating and measures to support landlords to ensure that properties remain viable for letting

* Enhanced powers against landlords who carry out or attempt to carry out unlawful evictions including further criminal sanctions

In other words the government must shake itself out of its long held complacency about the rented sector and must now adequately respond to the “extraordinary times” referred to by the Minister just five days ago.