The government announced that it was extending the ban on bailiff evictions that has been in place since the first lockdown in March, covering most tenants for another six weeks. The eviction ban has allowed landlords to go ahead with evictions in exceptional circumstances, such as when tenants were sitting on extreme levels of rent arrears. However, an important loophole has been placed in legislation that will for the first time give landlords the power to evict people for not paying their rent during lockdown.
"Substantial" rent arrears were previously defined in law as equivalent to nine months' rent, but debt accrued since the first lockdown on 23 March 2020 was not allowed to be counted in the total. This rule was to make sure people who lost their jobs during the pandemic were not made homeless because the government had forced their workplace to close. But the new legislation published removes this protection and redefines "substantial arrears" to cover many more people.
Now, a tenant can be evicted if they have been unable to pay their rent for just six months, and most crucially, rent accrued since the pandemic began is no longer excluded.
Housing activists warned that the new loophole leaves in tatters the government's promise that no one will lose their home because of the pandemic.
Citizens Advice estimates that around half a million tenants are in arrears, with the average amount owed being £730.