The government has extended a ban on evictions for renters by four weeks, amid fears thousands could lose their homes.
The ban was meant to end on Monday (24 August), but has now been extended until 20 September.
Why has the ban been extended?
The decision to extend the ban by four weeks comes as part of efforts to protect thousands from losing their home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, renters have been protected during the outbreak by a ban on evictions announced in March.
This was extended in June and was due to come to an end in England and Wales on Monday (24 August).
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced the extension after charities warned there could be mass evictions around Christmas.
The MHCLG said that tens of thousands of outgoing tenants could be unable to access affordable homes, potentially leading to a “devastating homelessness crisis”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the “11th hour U-turn” but warned the ban should not be lifted until the government has a credible plan to protect people from losing their homes because of the pandemic.
Some 174,000 renters have been warned by their landlord that they are facing eviction, while 58,000 moved out after being asked to leave during lockdown, according to Shelter.
The charity estimates that almost 250,000 renters had fallen behind on their rent by the end of June, while the District Councils Network believes up to 500,000 people could be at risk of eviction.
What does the extension mean for renters?
As well as protecting renters from being evicted for another four-weeks, landlords will also have to give tenants six months notice if they wish to evict them once the ban ends on 20 September.
However, the new rules on notice periods will not apply if there is a serious issue, such as anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.
The six-month notice period applies to England only and will remain in place until at least 31 March 2021, and will apply to all but the most serious cases.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of Covid-19. That is why today I am announcing a further four-week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months.
“I am also increasing protections for renters - six-month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.
“However it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again. So when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.”
While the announcement removes the “threat of imminent homelessness” for many, national homeless charity Crisis has called for the government to also provide financial support to help safeguard renters’ long-term prospects.
Citizens Advice supported this suggestion and said those who are in arrears because of the pandemic should be given grants.