The eviction ban in England and Wales has been extended by four weeks, the government has announced.
<p>Ministers had come under pressure to extend the ban beyond Monday - when it was due to end - amid warnings thousands of renters could lose their homes otherwise.</p><p>The measure was announced in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.</p><p>In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the ban has been extended to March.</p><p>Housing Secretary Robert 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 today I am announcing a further four-week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months.</p><p>"I am also increasing protections for renters - six month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.</p><p>"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."</p><p>Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the "11th hour U-turn", but said the ban should remain in force until a "credible plan" is in place to stop anyone losing their home because of the pandemic.</p><p>"Such a brief extension means there is a real risk that this will simply give renters a few more weeks to pack their bags," he said.</p> <p>Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Gillian Guy called on ministers to work with it and others to "put in place a series of protections which will help those who've built up rent arrears get back on their feet".</p><p>But the National Residential Landlords Association criticised the "blanket extension", saying it "satisfies no one".</p><p>Chief executive Ben Beadle said: "Landlords have been left powerless in exercising their legal right to deal with significant arrears unrelated to COVID-19, antisocial behaviour and extremely disruptive tenants who make life miserable for their neighbours and housemates.</p><p>"Private landlords cannot be expected to foot the bill for government failure. There must now be a plan to support households to pay their bills and to compensate landlords fully for their lost income."</p><p>Charities had voiced fears of mass evictions around Christmas if the ban is not extended.</p><p>They said that if the ban ended without extra protection, there could have been a "devastating homelessness crisis", with tens of thousands of outgoing tenants potentially unable to find or access affordable homes.</p> <p>According to housing charity Shelter, by the end of June a total of 174,000 renters had been warned by their landlord that they are facing eviction.</p><p>Shelter added that 58,000 moved out after being asked to leave during the COVID-19 lockdown.</p><p>The charity estimates that almost a quarter of a million renters were in rent arrears by the end of June.</p><p>Reacting to the extension, Shelter said ministers "must now use this short window of time wisely to put proper safeguards in place for renters".</p><p>It added: "A bullet may have been dodged with this extension, but as soon as Parliament returns, it must give judges extra powers to stop renters being evicted because of 'COVID-arrears'."</p><p>The District Councils Network estimates that up to half a million people could be at risk of eviction in the months to come.</p><p>The British Medical Association has also expressed concerns, saying ending the ban could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases if homelessness increases, with homeless people more likely to have health conditions that increase their vulnerability.</p>