As lockdown measures start to be phased out, there are growing concerns that many tenants who have had their incomes negatively affected by lockdown but have been as yet been protected from eviction by the current ban will soon find themselves on the street as landlords are legally allowed to start kicking them out.
Throughout much of the pandemic, tenants have been protected from evictions in anything other than the most severe cases. It has meant that even those tenants who have lost jobs or had their incomes reduced due to the pandemic and are therefore unable to pay rent have been legally protected against losing their homes.
For landlords, this has proven a difficult time as their usually reliable rental income has disappeared and, due to the eviction ban, they’ve been unable to find new tenants and protect their income against lockdown.
But, as lockdown measures are gradually eased, the current eviction ban is scheduled to end on 31st May leaving tenants extremely vulnerable. If landlords decide to act swiftly and decisively on tenants, the UK could quickly find itself in the midst of a homelessness scandal with more people than ever sleeping rough and charitable shelters suffering severe overdemand.
One council in Merseyside has tried to get ahead of this tragedy in waiting by pleading with local landlords to think before they act.
Sefton Council is urging landlords not to evict tenants without first getting in touch with the council. Sefton’s homeless prevention service will then try to negotiate for tenants to avoid being evicted, but if that’s not possible, they can help them find affordable accommodation quickly and efficiently.
The hope is that if the council is aware of particular individuals who are heading for homelessness, they can intercept them first and offer alternative routes to long-term shelter.
Trish Hardy, Sefton council’s cabinet councillor with responsibility for housing, said:
“The impact that the pandemic has had on many people’s circumstances and incomes is likely to be making the costs of housing a problem for some people in Sefton.
“We want any tenants who think they might be facing problems after the Government ends its eviction ban at the end of May to contact us as soon as possible so that we can work with them to find practical solutions.
“And we want to hear from landlords expecting difficulties so that we can help them reach practical solutions without the lost rent and other costs that can result from evictions and disputes.”
While it’s just Sefton to have implemented this scheme so far, it can only be a matter of time before more follow suit. But with exactly two weeks left until the eviction ban ends, are these councils acting too late to make a real difference?