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Campaigners are warning up to 55,000 households could be at risk as a ban on evictions came to an end in England and Wales on Monday.
Legal eviction proceedings can now fully progress in the courts, despite pressure from councils, charities and campaigners to extend the ban introduced early on in the coronavirus crisis. Public health chiefs had also backed the ban to curb the spread of the virus.
The UK government had already extended the ban by one month in August, and also announced the notice period for evictions would be increased from three to six months.
Campaign group Generation Rent warned it would not help an estimated 55,000 households in England who have been given notice but still not moved out before 29 August.
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“Without urgent action now, the government’s negligence will create a homelessness crisis entirely of its own making,” wrote its deputy director Dan Wilson Craw in a blogpost.
Meanwhile Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, warned on Monday: “We will undoubtedly see an increase in homelessness from today.”
Neate told Times Radio the rise in homelessness would be “long-lasting” because of the economic impact of the pandemic.
She warned the government’s temporary ban had been a “sticking plaster,” and that more than 300,000 people had fallen into arrears since the crisis started.
She said the housing crisis predated the pandemic, but warned it had become a “national emergency” with job losses and arrears mounting. “The government is still not acting on the underlying causes.”
The government released new official guidance for landlords and tenants in England on Monday as the changes came into effect. “Courts will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes,” it read.
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A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government told PA: “We’ve taken unprecedented action to support renters by banning evictions for six months, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries.
“To help keep people in their homes over the winter months, we’ve changed the law to increase notice periods to six months and introduced a ‘winter truce’ on the enforcement of evictions for the first time.
“In addition we have put in place a welfare safety net of nearly £9.3bn [$12bn] and increased Local Housing Allowance rates to cover the lowest 30% of market rents.”