Industry frustrated at latest eviction ban extension

The property industry has attacked the government’s latest eviction ban extension – saying wider action is required to help renters deal with debt and arrears.

Instead, what’s been put in place has been described as a ‘sticking plaster’, while landlords have been dubbed as ‘open piggybanks’.

The government has extended the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions until the end of May, while landlords have to give tenants six months’ notice of their intention to evict until 31 May.

Timothy Douglas, policy and campaigns manager of lettings and regulatory body, ARLA Propertymark, said: “The UK government has yet again extended the ban on evictions in England, without putting any additional and specific measures in place to support the sector.

“With the furlough scheme extended until September, it is likely that we will see further changes in the months ahead. To this end, we urge the UK government to consider a wider strategy and plan for how the sector can deal with rent arrears and the backlog of eviction cases, to avoid a mounting crisis.

“As the impact of Covid continues to bite with household debt and unemployment rates rising, we remain concerned about how tenants will avoid future rent arrears and landlords will remain incentivised to stay in the market.

“Rather than short term measures that are not helping those renters that need it most, the UK government must focus on providing long-term support to help renters clear the debt and arrears they have built up during the pandemic.”

Franz Doerr, chief xecutive at rental tech platform flatfair, said: “The cries of renters and landlords alike have, once again, fallen on deaf ears in Whitehall.

“Since it was introduced last year, the ban on bailiff evictions has only served as a sticking plaster for the rental market. Huge sums of debt are piling up at the feet of landlords who are continuing to unfairly prop up the market.

“Instead of merely kicking the can down the road, the government should be scrambling to save struggling renters from plunging further into debt.

“Unlike Scotland and Wales, England has no Tenants Loan Scheme in place. Not only do these schemes ensure private tenants are able to continue paying their rent, they also protect the overall stability of the rental market.

“Many landlords in England are, understandably, becoming fed up with the lack of support coming their way. If the government continues to ignore landlords, it risks sparking an exodus from the buy-to-let market, which would only reduce the number of more affordable rental homes available.”

Isobel Thomson, chief executive of lettingagent accreditation scheme safeagent, suggested there’s a big divide between how residential and commercial landlords are being treated.

She said: “In the commercial sector, government acknowledges the need to support both parties and monitor the overall progress of negotiations between tenants and landlords. Why is this not happening for private landlords in the PRS?

“If government is serious about protecting tenants and keeping them housed, they must now provide grants for landlords or accept the consequences of them withdrawing from the market.”

She added: “Agents are already doing all they can to keep struggling tenants in their homes, but where does this leave their landlords?

“Today’s announcement reiterates the measures previously introduced to assist tenants to meet their rent but makes no mention of what happens if there is shortfall and how landlords are supposed to cope.”

The government has also extended a ban on commercial evictions to 30 June.

Katherine Campbell, head of real estate disputes at law firm Reed Smith, said: “Today’s decision to extend the bans on commercial eviction and bailiff enforcement activity will be welcomed by struggling retailers but, once again, sees landlords reduced to the open piggybanks of the sector.

“The unpaid rent bill is estimated at £4.5bn, so as things stand, it seems the government is just delaying the inevitable reckoning once the measures are lifted. It feels a little bit like relying on wallpaper to cover up dry rot.

“Commercial landlords have seen their armouries stripped bare of all the tools that they would normally rely on to survive, and today’s decision will stretch them even closer to breaking point. Currently, the only legal teeth left to UK landlords hinges on issuing county court claims for rent.

“We rightfully pour effort into keeping the UK’s retailers afloat, but why does it increasingly seem like the commercial landlords, who also contribute taxes, employ citizens and feed into our economy, have been entirely forgotten? Today’s measures kick the can down the street, but eventually we will surely run out of road.”