Supporting tenants over winter

Following this report in the Wirral Globe, Wirral's Conservatives Councillors have reassured renters affected by coronavirus that they will continue to be supported over autumn and winter through comprehensive measures.

Measures confirmed today by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick include:

  • Emergency legislation has increased notice periods to 6 months until at least the end of March 2021
  • Evictions will not be enforced in local lockdown areas and there will be a truce on enforcement over Christmas
  • £180 million of government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments available for local authorities to support vulnerable renters this year.

The government has changed the law to increase notice periods to 6 months meaning renters now served notice can stay in their homes over winter, with time to find alternative support or accommodation.

The only exceptions to this are where tenants have demonstrated anti-social behaviour or committed fraud, and the landlord rightly would like to re-let their property to another tenant.

The Housing Secretary has also today confirmed that with coronavirus still posing a risk, if an area is in a local lockdown that includes a restriction on gathering in homes, evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs.

This support builds on the unprecedented package the government has put in place to help communities through the pandemic, including support for businesses to pay staff salaries and strengthening the welfare safety-net with a nearly £9.3 billion boost to the welfare system. This includes an extra £1 billion to increase Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates so that they cover the lowest 30% of market rents, meaning we now spend £25 billion supporting households to meet the cost of rent in the private and social rented sectors.

For those renters who require additional support, there is an existing £180 million of government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments made available this year, an increase of £40 million from last year and which is for councils to distribute to support renters with housing costs.

Details of how to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment in Wirral can be found here.

We will keep these measures under constant review and our decisions will continue to be guided by the latest public health advice and support with housing costs may also be available for those on low incomes or who are out of work eligible for Universal Credit.

From 21 September courts will start to hear possession hearings again. When cases are heard again these will be subject to new court processes and procedures which the Judiciary have developed.

These include:

  • The prioritisation of cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as extreme rent arrears where landlords would otherwise face unmanageable debts.
  • No cases from before 3 August 2020 will immediately proceed to hearing, but will have to be ‘re-activated’ by the landlord and then subject to a new review hearing, at least four weeks before the substantive hearing.
  • Landlords will also need to provide the courts and Judges with information on how tenants have been affected by the pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will be able to adjourn proceedings until the information is provided.
  • There will also be a ‘winter truce’ on the enforcement of evictions, with no evictions permitted in England and Wales in the run up to and over Christmas except in the most serious circumstances, such as cases involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse. This will ensure vulnerable tenants are not forced from their homes at a time when public and local authorities may be dealing with the usual level of increased demand for services during this time. To achieve this, guidance will be issued to bailiffs that they should not enforce possession orders in the weeks of Christmas.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: "We have protected renters during the pandemic by banning evictions for 6 months – the longest eviction ban in the UK. To further support renters we have increased notice periods to 6 months, an unprecedented measure to help keep people in their homes over the winter months.

"It’s right that we strike a balance between protecting vulnerable renters and ensuring landlords whose tenants have behaved in illegal or anti-social ways have access to justice. Our legislation means such cases will be subject to shorter notice periods and then prioritised through the judiciary’s new court processes."

The vast majority of landlords have shown understanding and leadership, taking action to support tenants despite facing hardship themselves. According to independent research, 87% of tenants have continued to pay full rent since the start of the pandemic, with a further 8% agreeing reduced fees with their landlords.

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