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31 March, 2021 Open access

Repeated last minute extensions to ban on evictions must be replaced by a coherent exit plan out of lockdown, say MPs

Select Committee warns that government is in danger of breaking its pledge that no one will lose their home as a result of pandemic

The repeated last minute extensions to the ban on evictions must be replaced by a coherent exit plan out of lockdown, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has said.

Almost a year after launching its inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on homelessness and the private rented sector, the Committee has published its second report, Protecting the homeless and the private rented sector: MHCLG’s response to Covid-19, scrutinising the government's actions to help rough sleepers, the wider homeless population, private renters, and landlords during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While recognising the government's achievements to provide rough sleepers with emergency accommodation through the 'Everyone In' initiative, the Committee finds that 'cracks are beginning to show' in the strategy, and that people are falling through the gaps. In particular, those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) are being denied assistance due to confusing guidance from government that local authorities should 'use their judgment' when assessing people's needs.

Highlighting that the recent case of Ncube v Brighton and Hove City Council ruled that councils can and should be using specific powers to provide accommodation to people with NRPF during a public health emergency, the Committee recommends that the government should - 

In addition, while the Committee acknowledges the government's support to private renters during the pandemic by banning evictions except in specific cases (such as anti-social behaviour), it highlights that the ban is due to come to an end in May 2021 and warns that the government is in danger of breaking its pledge that no one will lose its home as a result of the pandemic. Pointing out that the eviction framework has been 'tinkered' with regularly, and usually at the very last minute, the Committee calls on the government to - 

Chair of the Committee Clive Betts said today - 

'It is just over a year since the pandemic transformed our lives. In that time the government has done great work, alongside partners in local government, healthcare and the charity sector, to ensure that rough sleepers were kept off the streets. However, cracks are beginning to show in this strategy and people are being allowed to fall through the gaps.

Individuals with no recourse to public funds due to their immigration status need to be helped, especially during a national health emergency. Relying on charities to step in is not good enough. The Government needs to be clear with local authorities on their responsibilities, and provide sufficient funding to support them. They should also develop a task force to consider exactly how its policies on immigration, housing and elsewhere impact on homelessness and come up with solutions to address them. They have set a target of ending rough sleeping by 2024. We will hold them to this standard.

The ongoing crisis of rent arrears in the private rented sector is deeply concerning. The economic consequences of the pandemic could be long-lasting and become even more severe. The ban on evictions has ensured that people remain in their homes for now, but the debt will continue to increase. Landlords, many of whom only own one or two properties, will also be struggling with a loss of income.

The Government will have to find a solution that is workable for tenants and fair for landlords. The gravity of the situation means it should be treated just the same as other sectors of the economy and society that have a clear roadmap out of lockdown. Helping tenants pay their rent arrears would come at a cost, but would ultimately prevent significant expenditure on homelessness assistance further down the line.'

For more information, see Private rented sector needs roadmap out of lockdown to avoid debt crisis from parliament.uk