Data shows at least 90,063 people in the UK have been threatened with homelessness since April and more than half of these have already lost the roof over their heads, writes Lee Stafford a Partner in our Litigation and Disputes team.
The data reported in The Guardian comes from a Freedom of Information request replied to by 204 local councils, the responses to which showed that 36,359 people were threatened with homelessness since the pandemic started. Data also showed that 6,184 people were served section 21 notices and 46,894 people contacted their local council to inform them that they were already homeless.
Whilst different schemes may have precluded evictions for tenants, those who occupy under licences do not have the same protections – it is unclear how the Government will look to resolve this however it would be a shame if the progress made in March via the Government’s Everyone In scheme falters just as Winter starts.
Due to Covid-19, and as a direct result of the first national UK lockdown, the UK Government took steps to prevent landlords from evicting their tenants, with this “no evictions” period being extended three times and recently finishing on 21 September 2020. Further, and until 31 March 2021, the majority of notice periods that a tenant must receive from a landlord wanting to evict them is now 6 months. Also, and more recently, the UK Government has announced a “Christmas truce” which will prevent any (non-serious) evictions from taking place in the run-up to, and then over, Christmas – ending on 11 January 2021.
Anne Longfield, the Children Commissioner recently suggested as well that unregulated accommodation for young people in care be banned.
Centrepoint’s Head of Media & Public Affairs, Paul Noblet, explains that, “Too many young people are living in substandard accommodation where they receive little or no support and, in some instances, are left open to exploitation and abuse.
“Reductions in funding for local authorities and an absence of regulation has shrunk the number of high quality providers of accommodation and meant that too often young people are placed with the lowest cost providers who are unaccountable and place profit over the needs of a young person.
“Vulnerable young people need support with their mental and physical wellbeing, help to find training and employment and encouragement to develop the life skills, such as cooking and budgeting, they need to live independently.”
With regard to these issues, Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:
“We have already taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic including introducing a 6 month notice period and financial support to help those struggling to pay their rent.
“We are now going further by protecting renters from eviction during the new national restrictions and throughout the Christmas period – with a pause on bailiff activity other than in the most serious circumstances, such as anti-social behaviour or fraud.
“Striking the right balance between helping tenants in need while ensuring landlords have access to justice in the most serious cases.
“For those renters who require additional support, there is an existing £180 million of government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments for councils to distribute to support renters with housing costs.”
However, charities are reporting that many young single people, a lot of whom were working in pubs and restaurants which are now closed for the second national UK lockdown until December 2 (at the earliest), have reported that losing work during the lockdown periods has triggered homelessness. With the reason for this being that they could not afford to pay for their own accommodation, under the terms of say an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, in any event and so instead were simply being put up, lodging or “sofa-surfing” which afforded them no protection from eviction whatsoever.
The Guardian quoted Jonny Webb, a Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research who specialises on housing and homelessness, who said:
“Official data showed there was a 69% fall in people being given section 21s this year compared with 2019 but people were still being evicted.
“Some people will have been served a notice and not aware of the legal procedure to challenge, and think they must leave their accommodation. There could be rogue action from bailiffs, which shows even though the government put a system in place it is not necessarily working as it should be, and in fact, we are still seeing evictions under section 21 when they should be banned.”
“Those who are newly homeless are those living in precarious situation which would not be covered by the ban.
“This idea early on that [the government] said they had eradicated rough sleeping, that is definitely an overreaction especially when you look at reports showing those taken off the streets are now starting to slowly trickle back.”
Boris Johnson’s order to the people of the UK to stay at home till December 2 will feel particularly hollow for all of those without anywhere to actually call ‘home’.
The above is accurate as at 16 November 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.