The ban on evictions in England, Wales and Scotland has unsurprisingly been extended.
The move means that eviction notices, which were supposed to start again today, will not be served for at least six weeks in England and longer in Wales and Scotland.
The Ministry of Housing said no evictions should take place in England until 8 March at the earliest, while Wales and Scotland have extended their bans until at least 31 March.
In light of the recent lockdown, it is no surprise the UK government has extended the ban on evictions, but Mark Hayward, chief policy advisor for propertymark, is among those disappointed that the government has left it until the last minute to make the inevitable announcement.
He commented: “Over the past few weeks the UK government has held off updates about evictions to the sector making it impossible for agents to respond and plan for the difficult winter months ahead. The whole of the private rented sector has been impacted as a result of COVID-19 but we must recognise that the courts already faced a backlog of cases prior to the pandemic.”
In the last month, bailiffs have been unable to serve notices and enforce evictions in England and Wales, dubbed a Christmas truce.
The initial ban, introduced at the start of lockdown in March 2020, was last year extended three times with the third extension, to 20 September, also requiring landlords to give tenants a six-month notice period.
Courts began to clear the backlog of repossession cases in September, starting with the most serious cases such as those involving domestic violence or anti-social behaviour.
Ensuring tenants have the financial support to stay in their homes is the best way to prevent repossession, according to the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).
The association has been calling on the UK government to provide financial support in England.
The NRLA’s chief executive Ben Beadle said: “The repossessions ban is a sticking plaster that will ultimately lead to more people losing their homes.
“Instead, the government should recognise the crisis facing many tenants and take immediate action to enable them to pay their debts as is happening in Scotland and Wales. The objective should be to sustain tenancies in the long term and not just the short term.”