Thangam Debbonaire – 2020 Letter on Robert Jenrick on Banning Evictions

The letter written by Thangam Debbonaire, the Shadow Housing Secretary, to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State, on 3 November 2020.

Dear Robert,

As we head into a second lockdown on Thursday, it is essential that renters and homeowners have re-assurance that they will be safe in their homes.

Will you re-instate the evictions ban, as well as the ban on repossessions to protect home-owners, and come forward with a credible plan to keep your promise that no-one will lose their home due to coronavirus?

The Government clearly accepts the need for additional protections when additional public health measures are in place. During the first national lockdown you imposed a ban on evictions, and when the previous evictions ban was lifted in September, you set out that “evictions will not be enforced in local lockdown areas and there will be a truce on enforcement over Christmas.”

Now that England is heading for a second national lockdown, will you ensure that renters across the country are protected from eviction?

Although landlords must now give six months’ notice for most eviction cases, this will not help those at most immediate risk of eviction, who were issued with eviction notices before 29 August and whose cases will be the first to go through the courts this winter. No-one should suffer lockdown with harassment or anti-social behaviour from neighbours, but any exemption must be framed to prevent homelessness.

As well immediate protection from evictions, the Government must come forward with a credible long-term plan to ensure that no-one loses their home as result of Coronavirus. Many renters have struggled to keep up with payments, through no fault of their own. Shelter has estimated that 322 000 private renters have fallen into arrears as a result of the pandemic. Will you raise Local Housing Allowance to average rents, and bring forward a plan to address the arrears crisis which is putting hundreds of thousands of renters at risk of losing their home?

During the first national lockdown, the ban prevented many evictions but there was a worrying rise in illegal evictions. The charity Safer Renting has estimated that illegal evictions are up 60% since March. What steps are you taking to ensure that renters are not illegally evicted over winter, and have access to advice and support where it is needed?

The Prime Minister announced a second national lockdown on the very same day as the ban on repossessions came to an end. The Financial Conduct Authority’s extension of the 6-month mortgage deferral is welcome but may be insufficient to protect mortgage holders from lenders who are concerned about the long-term viability of the mortgage. The mortgage interest loan scheme is not available until 9 months have passed, by which time many home-owners may have been assessed as unable to pay by their lender and at risk of repossession. This further puts home-owners at risk of turning to more unscrupulous lenders.

Will you now clarify the position for those borrowers who have already taken a six-month mortgage holiday, re-start the ban on repossessions and update the Support for Mortgage Interest Scheme to ensure it provides adequate support to homeowners?

I look forward to an urgent response.

Best wishes,