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3 February, 2021 Open access

House of Lords votes in favour of motion of ‘regret’ on limitations of regulations that extend protection from eviction for tenants in England

Regulations that extend eviction ban to 21 February 2021 and enable further exemptions from the ban are nevertheless approved

The House of Lords has voted in favour of a ‘regret motion’ about the changes to protections from eviction introduced by the Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI.No.15/2021).

Introducing the regret motion yesterday - that proposed an amendment to a motion tabled by the government to approve the regulations - Labour Peer Lord Kennedy of Southwark said -

‘On 26 March last year, the right honourable Member for Newark in the other place, Mr Robert Jenrick, went on record saying -

‘... no one should lose their home as a result of the coronavirus epidemic’.

These regulations confirm that that promise is broken … These regulations satisfy no one. On the one hand, they extend the ban on enforcement of eviction orders which has been granted by the courts until 21 February, but they also expand the exemptions from the ban, meaning that tenants with more than six months’ arrears could be evicted.'

Asking the government to ‘stick to their word’, Lord Kennedy said he wanted to ‘test the opinion of the House’, and moved -

‘As an amendment to the motion ... to insert 'but that this House regrets that the Regulations only provide protection from eviction for residential tenancies until the end of 21 February, and regrets that the Regulations permit evictions for arrears that have built up since the start of the pandemic, and that a case is deemed to involve substantial rent arrears if the amount of unpaid arrears outstanding is at least equivalent to six months’ rent, which contravenes Her Majesty’s Government’s commitment that nobody would lose their home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.’

Responding for the government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Justice Lord Wolfson confirmed that the government considers that landlords ought to be able to enforce possession orders where there are ‘very significant’ rent arrears. However, he also highlighted that -

‘… even in those extreme cases, where a court decides that an exemption to this instrument applies … bailiffs will not carry out an eviction if they are made aware that anyone living in the property has Covid-19 symptoms, is self-isolating or has been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable.’

Following the debate, Peers voted in favour of the regret motion by 270 votes to 267 against.

The motion to approve the regulations was then however agreed.

The debate on the Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 is available from Hansard.