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Councils warn of “cliff edge” with 500,000 people at risk of eviction once stay on proceedings is lifted

Councils have warned that hundreds of thousands of people could be at risk of eviction when the stay on possession proceedings introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end on 23 August.

The cross-party District Councils Network suggested that nearly half a million – who pay over half their income on rent - could be at risk of eviction.

In a report, District councils and the private rented sector, the DCN, which represents 187 district councils in England, said 108,000 lone parents with children and a further 100,000 aged 16-24 could be at greatest risk of losing their homes.

The Network also cited figures from Citizens’ Advice showing an estimated four million have fallen behind on rent, council tax or a telecoms bill.

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The DCN said districts were calling on the Government to protect private tenants and help them to afford their rent by permanently maintaining the increase in housing benefit so it covers the lowest third of market rent, and lift the benefit cap.

“Longer-term, government also needs to use the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to provide more funding for council homelessness support services and tackle the housing crisis once and for all by investing in a renaissance of council house building to create homes, jobs and growth,” it said.

Districts are also said to be finding it harder to find private landlords as some insurance companies are not willing to provide rent cover during the lockdown.

Cllr Giles Archibald, DCN Better Lives spokesperson, said: “Districts are deeply worried about a potential spiralling in eviction proceedings once the Government’s ban ends this weekend.

“As the cliff edge nears little has been done to ensure the welfare system will support those vulnerable families at risk of homelessness, and we are now at the precipice without a plan.”

Cllr Archibald added: “The coronavirus crisis will have exacerbated an already challenging situation where many families were struggling to keep a roof over their heads before the pandemic struck.

“COVID-19 will continue to have a huge impact on jobs and incomes, and while districts will do what they can to support those to remain in their homes, we need government to take steps to mitigate what could be a dramatic rise in homelessness, with many families approaching their local council for support.”

The Independent has meanwhile reported that in a letter to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, Shelter, the Law Centres Network, Advice UK and Legal Aid Practitioners Group said: “We are deeply concerned that, without decisive action from MHCLG [the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government], you are at risk of breaking the promise you made on 18 March: that no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home.”

The groups are said to have called for courts and judges to be given the discretion to disapply the mandatory rent arrears ground and the mandatory section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice.

See also: Possession claims after the stay is lifted - Andy Lane of Cornerstone Barristers explains and provides an overview of the post-23 August 2020 landscape for residential possession claims.

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