Ban on bailiff evictions extended after Ipswich warns of ‘worrying’ homeless rise
The ban on bailiff evictions has been extended for another month - after campaigners warned lifting it would be “very likely to lead to an increase in sofa surfing or rough sleeping” in Ipswich.
Rules which stopped landlords evicting tenants for rent arrears during the coronavirus crisis were due to be lifted on Sunday, August 23.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced on Friday that the ban would would continue for another four weeks.
With 3,000 more people in Ipswich claiming unemployment benefits between March and July, as well many thousands more seeing their incomes plummet while on furlough, there are fears many will struggle to make ends meet.
Homeless charity Shelter has warned that 3% of private renters could be at risk of eviction.
With 12,000 private lets in Ipswich, Neil MacDonald - Ipswich Borough Council’s portfolio holder for housing and health - feared about 360 households could be in difficulty.
Ipswich has a temporary accommodation capacity of 80 homes, plus the option of housing approximately 25 families in bed and breakfasts if necessary,
Mr MacDonald said a delay to the end of the ban would help - but believes it should continue for longer, until there is more certainty about whether there will be a coronavirus vaccine.
Jools Ramsey, chief executive of Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) - which runs the Chapman Centre for homeless people, along with a money advice service - said she had “huge concerns” over the lifting of restrictions.
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“Landlords consider eviction proceedings for a number of reasons, not just rent arrears - and as the restriction is lifted, I anticipate there being a considerable spike in court action to approve these,” she said ahead of the latest government announcement.
“Many households’ income will have been affected by long-term sickness, furlough or redundancy, and whilst payment holidays on mortgages and credit cards will have helped some in the short-term, these will only have served to delay the inevitable financial pressures that people will be facing.”
Ms Ramsey - who earlier this month told Ipswich MP Tom Hunt that IHAG is already starting to see rough sleeping increase - is particularly worried about specific groups such as single men, who may not be considered priority need.
Of those who find themselves at risk of rough sleeping, Mr MacDonald said: “For most of them, their main fault is that they’re poor or have lost their job, rather than having a drink or drug addiction.
“Typically, tenants can be at the bottom of end of the pile and under pressure.”
He believes “there has to be long-term solution” and believes landlords may need to accept lower, more affordable rents.
However, he accepted that landlords themselves are under financial pressure.
Mr 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 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; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.”
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