The suspension of all housing possession proceedings has been extended by two months, the government has confirmed. Housing solicitors immediately welcomed the news.
The government announced in March that all housing possession proceedings would be suspended until June 25 to protect private and social renters, and those with mortgages and licences covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
Today, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: ‘We have provided an unprecedented package of support for renters during this pandemic. Today, I am announcing that the government’s ban on evictions will be extended for another two months. That takes the moratorium on evictions to a total of five months.
‘Eviction hearings will not be heard in courts until the end of August and no one will be evicted from their home this summer due to coronavirus.
‘We are also working with the judiciary on proposals to ensure that when evictions proceedings do recommence, arrangements, including rules, are in place to assist the court in giving appropriate protections for those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus – including those tenants who have been shielding.’
Lord chancellor Robert Buckland added: ‘Protecting vulnerable people has been our priority throughout this pandemic. Extending this ban will give people invaluable security in these turbulent times and work continues at pace to ensure vulnerable renters remain protected long after the ban ends.’
The announcement was immediately welcomed by practitioners.
South West London Law Centres said: ‘This is fantastic news for tenants. When our communities are worried about their jobs, health and future, they don’t need to be dealing with the threat of eviction.’
Around 138,000 possession claims are brought every year in the county court. The Court of Appeal, which confirmed last week that the suspension includes appeals, said many defendants to possession claims ‘are vulnerable and unrepresented, and only realise that action is required from them very late in the day’.
County courts had been looking at how they could safely resume hearing possession cases this month. However, solicitors were concerned when some courts said there would ‘almost certainly be no duty solicitor scheme’ in letters outlining their proposals.
The master of the rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, has convened a judiciary-led cross-sector working group to consider and address matters affecting litigants and the courts when the suspension is lifted.