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Government Asked to Reinstate Eviction Ban

News Commentary/Kevan James

September 22, 2022

The eviction ban must be reinstated in England to ensure no one loses their home during the cost of living crisis, a new report has warned.

The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping warned that inaction could lead to a "catastrophic" homelessness crisis, with the government failing to meet its manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping.

Its new report calls on the government to temporarily bring back the eviction ban - mirroring what was announced in Scotland earlier this month. The report calls for a pause in benefits deductions and for benefits to be increased immediately - not next April as planned. It urges the government to take a "two-pronged" approach to get people off the streets and ensure vulnerable tenants do not end up on them.

The commission was set up to examine the lessons from the public health emergency response to rough sleeping during the pandemic. It is chaired by former head of the Civil Service Lord Bob Kerslake and comprises 36 experts from the health, housing and homelessness sectors.

Its latest report includes new recommendations on the cost-of-living crisis and says "the cost of not acting now is too great, as we stand on the precipice of a new emergency". Lord Kerslake said the government's responses to the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis "must be equally urgent". He added that failure to act could see this become a "homelessness as well as an economic crisis" and that the results could be "catastrophic".

The National Residential Landlords Association said it was right to call for improvements to the benefits system, but that preventing failed tenancies from ending would [also] be catastrophic and would not address people's hardships.

Chief executive Ben Beadle said: "There is a very real danger that an eviction ban would give free rein to tenants committing antisocial behaviour and those deliberately not paying their rents, knowing they will face no consequences and the bill will be picked up by others."

The government did not say whether it was considering a temporary ban. A spokeswoman said: "We are giving councils £316 million this year to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads.

"This is alongside the action we are taking to support families with the cost of living this winter through our £37 billion pound support package.

"This includes £1,200 this year for the most vulnerable, helping them to pay their bills and stay in their homes."

Image and report via Sky News

Kevan James

There is indeed real justification for an immediate ban on evictions as well as a substantial increase in benefits. But the government must do more than these two things; in addition, there must not only be an immediate freeze of existing rents but also a compulsory reduction of them brought into force.

As I have written previously, the Lettings Industry is broken beyond repair and the UK urgently needs a complete re-set of how this operates, as well as a complete change in the manner, attitude and behaviour from those who rent homes towards tenants.

Tenants are customers and should be valued. They pay for a service - that of a secure, stable and well-maintained building, for as long as they need it, in which they can make a home.

They are not some kind of lower order of being; some form of underclass. Tenants are real people, with real needs just like everybody else and cannot, indeed must not, be treated as though they can be tossed aside on a whim.

The utterly absurd rises in rents seen recently are nothing more than exploitation and avarice on the part of both landlords and estate agents.

At the top end of the scale, big houses come with big prices and are the place to find those with big incomes. That's fine and fair but most people do not occupy such abodes. The ordinary one-bed flat, two-up-two-down terrace or three-bed family home should be within reach of everybody, regardless of which part of the country it is, including those looking for work and those on some form of disability benefits. And this includes single people, as well as couples and families.

Landlords, led by greed-soaked estate agents, are putting rents up by horrific amounts and are doing so now - at the end of summer, into autumn, winter and the onset of cold weather, low temperatures and already huge increases in heating and lighting costs. The government's recently announced freeze on energy prices does not cover rises that have already taken place earlier this year.

Rent rises at this time of year put those responsible for them into the same bracket as the justifiably criticised energy companies who have also increased costs to ordinary people beyond reason.

Ben Beadle, CEO of The National Residential Landlords Association (quoted above) can say what he likes about 'failed tenancies' but he has a vested interest and it is also grossly unfair of him to attempt to put such tenants into the same category as the vast majority, who are good tenants. They may be fastidiously tidy, they may be less so, they may be poor but that doesn't make them bad customers. They are still good tenants.

Many evictions are not the result of bad tenants. These evictions are the result of bad landlords, bad estate agents and their lust for ever-greater sums of fantasy land money. They are the result of a wild imagination - that there is an endless supply of people with loads of cash who can afford such outlandish sums every month and who can stump up vast increases with a smile and not miss the money.

At some point, landlords and agents will have to wake up, get real and realise their current practices must end because there isn't such a supply.

Tenants committing antisocial behaviour and those deliberately not paying their rent (as well as wrecking homes by their own negligence) should be evicted. I have no difficulty with that. Any eviction ban needs to contain those qualifications. Most tenants do not fall into those categories however.

I am not generally in favour of government intervention but people need somewhere to live. People need homes for the long-term that are properly maintained (as the Law says) and that they can afford.

Put simply however, if the Lettings Industry - Agents, Landlords and those employed by them, including maintenance personnel - will not exercise restraint, self-control and common sense, the government must do it for them.

© Kevan James 2022

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