The Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz is today renewing her call on the government to extend the ban on evictions – which comes to an end this Sunday 20 September.The Council is also reminding tenants and landlords of their rights and responsibilities around illegal evictions once the ban is lifted.
As more and more people lose their jobs and livelihoods as a result of the economic effects of coronavirus, tenants are falling into rent arrears through no fault of their own and may face the threat of eviction – the Council fears up to 20% of its private renters may already be in arrears.
Mayor Fiaz said: “The lifting of this ban on evictions suggests that the Covid-19 crisis is over but we know that is far from the case, in fact we are currently fighting to halt a slide back into a second wave of infection.
“At a time when people are being forced to miss work either due to new infection, or because they have to self-isolate within a household, or because, to the shame of this Government, they can’t get a test, it is plain wrong to threaten people with losing their home.”
Landlords in England and Wales were banned in March from evicting tenants and repossessing properties following the outbreak of coronavirus. Once the ban is lifted, under current law, anyone with two month's rent arrears can be evicted through the courts.
Mayor Fiaz said: “In Scotland the ban has been extended to March 2021, yet households in England and Wales are still left facing dire situations. The ban should not be lifted until the Government has a credible plan to ensure no one is at risk of losing their home because of coronavirus."
In August Mayor Fiaz was one of 75 Labour mayors and council leaders from across the country who signed a letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, calling on the Government to extend the ban.
Mayor Fiaz said: “At the beginning of lockdown, the Government pledged no one who has lost income due to Covid-19 would be forced out of their homes. However, we are nowhere near back to normal, unemployment is rising daily and thousands of people are still unable to work normally. With the end of furlough at the end of October, we know there will be further job losses. Despite this the Government intends pressing ahead with the ending of the eviction ban this weekend which is a disgrace.”
More than half of Newham’s residents live in privately rented accommodation and over 60% of them pay their rent without support, for example with no top-up from Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, yet many are economically vulnerable and in insecure employment situations.
Since 29 August 2020, landlords and agents have to give tenants six months’ notice before they can start any possession proceedings.
Cllr John Gray, cabinet member for housing said; “We want our residents living in the private sector to be aware of their rights so they can deal any threats posed by illegal evictions. We have launched media campaign highlighting the issues and sign posting anyone at risk or under threat to our services, which can support them.
“Our Private Sector Housing Standards team is also handing out business cards to tenants at risk, which include where to get help, information on the eviction process, and details of what the Police can do to help prevent illegal evictions and harassment. The Council and the Police have worked together to produce the business cards in recognition that as a joined up approach is needed when dealing with illegal evictions and harassment.”
“We are absolutely NOT anti-landlord but we reminding our 17,000 licenced landlords and managing agents, who are responsible for more than 38,000 licenced properties, that they must follow the correct procedures to end a tenancy, otherwise they may be prosecuted for illegal eviction or harassment, which is a criminal offence.”
Mayor Fiaz has recorded a video message in which she said: “I want people in Newham to live free from the fear of a rogue landlord. We are not anti-landlord, but we are anti-criminal landlord. If you rent in Newham and are worried about the ending of the eviction ban, we have schemes in the borough to support and protect you.”