‘Seek urgent help’ over coronavirus rent arrears, tenants at risk of eviction told
PUBLISHED: 12:29 22 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:29 22 September 2020
Nearly 400 people have been given help by Citizens Advice in Ipswich to deal with housing or rent arrears since the Covid-19 lockdown, new statistics from the charity have revealed.
The charity has now urged the government to “urgently consider direct financial support to help renters clear their debts and stay in their homes” amid fears of a rise in homelessness and rough sleeping when the ban on bailiff evictions ends this week.
The ban on evicting tenants was due to be lifted in August.
However, it was extended amid fears many families could be out on the streets, with the Suffolk Law Centre also saying it would provide extra services for struggling families.
Now, latest figures from Citizens Advice Ipswich show just how many people could be at risk when landlords are once again allowed to evict tenants again for rent arrears.
The charity supported 380 people with housing or rent arrears between March and September, with deputy manager Nelleke van Helfteren urging those at the highest risk to “seek urgent advice - from Citizens Advice or another housing charity - about whether there’s any way to prevent or delay the eviction, or about finding alternative accommodation”.
Even if people are able to follow the advice given to them, Citizens Advice fears that many renters will struggle with arrears built up during the pandemic.
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Nicky Willshere, chief executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said: “Neither renters nor landlords can afford to be saddled with long-term arrears as a result of coronavirus.
“The government must urgently consider direct financial support to help renters clear their debts and stay in their homes, and so make good its promise that no renter will be evicted because of coronavirus and meanwhile we are here to help people with questions or concerns.”
Ms van Helfteren said landlords who do want to evict people have to go through three stages - serving tenants with a notice, gaining a possession order from a court when this expires and finally applying for a bailiff to carry out an eviction.
“It’s really important to know where you are in that process,” she said.
“If your landlord has not yet given you a formal notice then you won’t be evicted for many months.
“If your landlord has already got a possession order and applied for a bailiff date, you might be evicted with 14 days’ notice.”
“If you haven’t yet been given notice, but are worried about the possibility, talk to your landlord. Explain the effect that coronavirus has had on your household and income.
“Ask if they’ll accept reduced payments, or let you pay back arrears at a rate you can afford.
“You should also make sure you’re receiving all the benefits you might be entitled to.”
Call the Suffolk Adviceline on 0300 330 1151.
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