Boris Johnson Under Pressure to Extend Virus Ban on Evictions

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure from opposition parties and charities to extend a ban in England and Wales on evicting tenants unable to keep up their rental payments because of the coronavirus pandemic.

His government in June extended an initial three-month ban by a further two months, saying “the ultimate ambition is to transition out of these measures at the end of August to allow the market to operate.”

With the prohibition on evictions now due to end on Aug. 23, the government faces trying to balance the demands of landlords who say it’s unfair to expect them to foot the burden of tenants who aren’t paying rent, and avoiding a surge in homelessness by supporting renters who have been pushed into economic hardship during the pandemic.

Labour’s housing spokeswoman, Thangam Debbonaire, told Times Radio on Friday that lifting the ban would risk adding to the government’s record levels of debt, which has surpassed 2 trillion pounds ($2.6 trillion) for the first time.

“What we really want is for the economy to be able to regrow, but it can’t be at the cost of health and it can’t be at the cost of people’s homes,” she said. “It will cost us more if all of these people are made homeless.”

‘Forced Out’

Earlier in the week, Labour city leaders including London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick urging him to extend the ban to ensure that “no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation issued a statement on Thursday warning that a wave of evictions could push homelessness up and urging the government to make a permanent increase in housing benefit. “It’s simply not right to remove this protection now,” it said.

Housing charity Shelter estimates that almost 230,000 private renters in England have fallen into arrears since the pandemic started.

But landlords are also concerned about their inability to collect rent, and say the ban should be lifted.

It’s “incredibly unfair not to consider the landlord in this scenario, as many are reliant on rental payments in order to survive and have had no choice but to swallow this loss of income due to the eviction ban,” Marc von Grundherr, director of the letting agent Benham and Reeves, said in a statement.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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