London renters face June wave of poverty and homelessness

London renters suffering the brutal financial consequences of the coronavirus lockdown will be exposed to a new wave of poverty and homelessness without urgent action from the Government.

Commenting on the Mayor’s proposals today for new measures on renting, I say they do not cover two key protections needed in the next phase of the crisis.

There are nearly 2.5 million private renters in London. Many already struggle with high rents and renters are more likely to be in precarious or low paid work already. Any gaps in provisions for private renters by the Government will hit hardest in London.

Today I said:

“The Mayor’s proposals for further protections for renters today are a useful contribution to the debate around renters rights but they leave two important gaps – extending the eviction ban and cancelling rent arrears – and risk creating a new wave of homelessness in June when the current eviction ban comes to an end.

“Neither the Government’s current plans nor the Mayor’s proposals would create the security renters need to get through the next phase of the crisis.

“Section 21, which allows no-fault evictions and was often used to intimidate tenants, absolutely should have been permanently scrapped in the original Coronavirus Bill. The Government have strung out their plans cancel this unfair clause long enough.

“Londoners in poverty already spend more than half their income on housing costs, without solid protections we risk a summer wave of people losing their homes, on top of what coronavirus has already cost us.

My work on the London Assembly on renters’ rights shows that two further measures are necessary.

The Government should:

Extend the eviction ban – do not lift it in June.
Lifting the ban on court proceedings risks a wave of new cases, even with the new protections the Mayor proposes. Many people will still fall through the cracks of this new support, including many in precarious work who cannot prove their loss of income is a direct effect of coronavirus. Extending the ban on evictions will give time for proper support to be put in place that does not create gaps and risk people losing their homes unfairly.

Forgive the arrears – make landlords claim, not tenants
Increasing housing benefit rates and income support to levels that cover rents is necessary, but the early stages of the crisis have seen many renters building up arrears as debt to their landlords. They are being expected to put in place repayment plans at the worst possible time. The right way to approach this is to put the onus on Landlords by cancelling all arrears build up so far and requiring landlords to claim back from the Government for arrears accrued during the crisis, while also increasing benefit levels to cover rents in full for those who have lost incomes.