In Depth

Eviction ban: what are renters’ rights under new coronavirus law?

Emergency legislation to protect tenants during pandemic

New emergency legislation is being introduced to protect UK tenants struggling to pay rent as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Under the new laws, landlords in England and Wales will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least three months, reports Sky News

Announcing the planned measures to safeguard private renters - who account for 20% of households in England - Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “No renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.”

How will renters’ rights change?

Under existing laws, a tenant with an assured-shorthold tenancy who has eight weeks’ rent arrears can be forced to leave their accommodation with just 14 days’ notice.

Landlords can also serve a section 21 notice giving tenants two months to leave, without a reason being given.

The new legislation will give renters three months of breathing space before they can be kicked out, and “the government is expecting landlords and tenants to work together to establish affordable repayment plans, taking into consideration tenants’ individual circumstance, at the end of the period”, reports Sky News.

Housing associations in England this week “issued an assurance that their six million-plus tenants will not face eviction” during the coronavirus outbreak, reports The Independent.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation (NHF) representative body, said: “No one should be evicted because of the coronavirus. We are confident that no housing association will do this, and want anyone affected by the outbreak to be reassured they will not be evicted.”

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And the reaction?

Critics of the emergency legislation point out that it does not go as far as the newly announced three-month mortgage payment holiday being offered to homeowners. 

The London Renters Union (LRU) is calling for renters to be offered a similar payment suspension, The Guardian reports.

LRU spokesperson Amina Gichinga asked: “If landlords can get a payment holiday, why won’t the government also implement a suspension of rent payments?

“We must suspend rents, not defer them. Otherwise the end of the coronavirus crisis could mean the beginning of an evictions crisis.”

However, Polly Neate, chief executive of housing advice charity Shelter, has welcomed the emergency measures to suspend new evictions.

In a statement on the charity’s website, Neate said: “Without this decisive action, tens of thousands of renters would have been faced with eviction in the coming months, while potentially trying to isolate and protect themselves and others.”

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