The Impact of Coronavirus on Social and Private Tenants
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused many changes across England and Wales. We are all continuing to adapt to a new way of living which includes social distancing, regular testing and wearing masks. However, have the laws surrounding social and private tenants adapted enough to help renters survive in this new day and age?
The Coronavirus Act 2020 was implemented to protect social and private tenants by delaying when landlords can evict tenants. The provisions in the Act increased the notice periods landlords were required to provide to tenants when seeking possession of a residential property. This extension continued between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2021. Therefore, tenants had some protection against being evicted at a time where we were told to stay home and socialise within our households to control the spread of coronavirus.
From 1 October 2021, all notice periods returned to the pre-pandemic position as set out in our blog dated – An End To Extended Notice Periods From 1st October. However, is this change in law premature, given that we are still dealing with the uncertainty of the pandemic? Not so long ago, a new variant of coronavirus, Omicron, took over the country, forcing the government to implement tougher guidelines. On 1 January 2022 162,572 cases were reported in the United Kingdom compared to 27,857 case reported on 01 October 2021 when the notice periods returned to normal. So, we are still very much living in the pandemic. Despite this coronavirus support schemes have also ended including furlough, the Covid Local Grants Scheme, the £20 increase to Universal Credit and the eviction ban. Removing a significant amount of support and protection from social and private tenants which were put in place to ensure fewer people were made homeless at a time when it might exacerbate the spread of the virus, seems counter intuitive at a time of such rapidly rising infection rates.
In light of the above, the Welsh government has extended its measures to protect renters from evictions. Eviction notice periods will remain at 6 months until 24 March 2022. Also, in Scotland there is a temporary eviction ban preventing those who live in an area under protection level of 3 and 4 from being evicted, leaving England the only UK country to have no protection in place for renters during the surge in coronavirus cases. At this time there is no indication from Government that they are considering any further protections. This is in line with their current approach which appears to be minimising any further restrictions in the hope that the new variant will not be as serious or as disruptive as the previous ones.
At a time where the UK Government is still trying to navigate the country through a global pandemic, it cannot be considered appropriate to decide not to extend or revive the measure implemented to protect renters from eviction. A surge in homelessness would inevitably put more people at risk which goes against safeguarding the wider community and tackling the spread of coronavirus.