Concern for renters in Lancaster district as Eviction Ban comes to an end
Citizens Advice North Lancashire is concerned that many people may be affected by the end of the Eviction Ban.
The protections that were put in place for renters during the pandemic banning most bailiff-enforced evictions came to an end on Bank Holiday Monday.
At the same time, the notice period that landlords need to give their tenants will be reduced from six to four months.
This comes as research by Citizens Advice shows that one in ten private renters are behind on their rent - equating to over 350,000 tenants across the country.
The average amount of arrears owed has risen by 24 per cent in the past six months, showing that the pandemic has affected both renters and landlords.
Helen Greatorex, CEO of Citizens Advice North Lancashire said: "We're worried that more landlords are going to enforce evictions on the notices they've served and that many people will lose their homes or be at risk of homelessness.
"We would encourage anyone who is in this situation and needs support to contact us for advice."
Citizens Advice North Lancashire's housing expert, Helen Dent, said: "If you are given a notice seeking possession the first thing to do is to get advice about whether the notice is valid.
"A landlord notice is just step one, and doesn't mean that an eviction can go ahead.
"If the landlord doesn't follow the process to the letter of the law, tenants may be able to successfully fight an eviction.
"If that's not possible, a court may make an order for possession.
"Only when the date set for possession by the court has passed, can the landlord apply for bailiffs to carry out an eviction.
"This stage is also an opportunity for both sides to sort out their differences."
In a case whereby tenants have already received a notice saying that bailiffs are going to carry out an eviction, it's still not too late.
“There were some circumstances in which evictions were allowed to take place while the ban was in place - including more than six months of rent arrears," Helen said.
"But if you are being evicted due to one of these reasons, you will still get 14 days’ notice.
"Once again, seek advice.
"In some cases the local council will have a duty to provide alternative accommodation. Citizens Advice and other housing charities can also help people find an alternative place to live, or even delay the eviction at this late stage.”
If you need advice or help regarding rented accommodation you can call Citizens Advice North Lancashire in confidence and free on 0808 278 7882, Monday - Friday, 9-4.
“It was not my fault I was made redundant...I am barely getting by.”
Kiara*, who went to Citizens Advice for help, had worked in an administration role for a number of years.
When Covid-19 struck, her workload decreased and her employer made her redundant. Since losing her job, she has been looking and applying for many jobs, so far without success. She is a single parent of three young children.
When she told her landlord that she was no longer working, they refused to renew her tenancy and she was soon issued with a ‘Section 21’ notice - a so-called no fault eviction. Worried about the prospect of being thrown out of her house, she contacted her local council for homelessness help and Kiara and her children were able to secure emergency accommodation before finding somewhere to live permanently.
Kiara said: “When I told my landlord that I was no longer working they said that they would not be able to renew my tenancy as I no longer earned enough to cover the rent. Universal Credit caps the amount that they pay, so I would always be in arrears. I later received a Section 21 notice to leave the property.
“I was so upset as it was not my fault that I had been made redundant or that the housing element of Universal Credit is capped.
“I have three small children, no family to rely on and really did not know what I was going to do. I was really stressed out as first I was made redundant and then I was losing my home.
“It's a really difficult situation as my income has dropped dramatically and I am barely getting by. I have had to ask for help from local charities who have been really supportive and helped provide me with essentials such as clothes and food.”
Citizens Advice fears that, with the ban on evictions coming to an end, stories like Kiara’s will become more common.
The charity is calling on the Westminster government to provide a package of financial support, delivered through grants and government-backed loans, for renters in England facing arrears due to the economic effects of the pandemic.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Next week, the sticking plaster applied to the English private rented sector during the pandemic will be ripped off. Ending the eviction ban puts thousands of renters at risk of losing their home. The government should put in place a system of grants and government-backed loans for renters in England who are still financially struggling because of Covid-19.
“The lack of security renters in England will face from Monday is a symptom of a longer term problem where tenants can be evicted without cause. The government has committed to ending no-fault evictions and it’s vital this is urgently enshrined in law in their forthcoming reforms to the private rented sector. "
*Kiara’s name has been changed to protect her identity. Kiara lives in England, so the rules governing her eviction are those of England.