Legal and charity groups have warned that the 'lack of discretion' in current housing law means around 230,000 renters face certain eviction when possession proceedings restart on Monday after a five-month suspension.
For those who have fallen into rent arrears of eight weeks or more or where landlords seek 'no-fault' evictions, they warn that 'the law leaves no choice but for the renter to lose their home'.
In a letter to Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, they call on parliament to act urgently to dis-apply these mandatory grounds for possession and give judges discretion not to evict tenants.
Housing charity Shelter estimates that almost a quarter of a million private renters have fallen into arrears due to the coronavirus crisis and a YouGov poll revealed that 174,000 private tenants have already been threatened with eviction.
Ministers have extended the notice period required in possession proceedings and introduced procedural changes. To restart evictions halted by the crisis, landlords must issue a reinstatement notice, and in new applications, they must give courts information about how the pandemic has affected their tenant.
But the letter tells Jenrick that the procedural changes do not change the mandatory grounds and are not enough to protect thousands of renters.
The signatories – Shelter, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG), the Law Centres Network and Advice UK, criticise the government’s inaction before the summer recess, stating it 'has not played its part by resolving this risk to renters'.
They warn that Jenrick is 'at risk of breaking the promise' he made in March that 'no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home'.
The organisations are part of a working group set up by Sir Terence Etherton, the master of the rolls, which is looking for solutions to the evictions crisis.
Solicitor and LAPG director of strategy, Kate Pasfield, told the Gazette: ’This area of housing law requires urgent review to give judges more scope to decide whether or not tenants and homeowners should be evicted during this unprecedented crisis.’