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Judges should have greater discretion to look at the individual circumstances of people at risk of eviction due to coronavirus, ministers have been told.

MPs have warned thousands of people could be forced out of their homes once the current moratorium on new evictions in England and Wales ends on 23 August.

Labour’s Lillian Greenwood said greater protection was needed in law for those who had seen their income hit.

Most landlords appreciated the economic situation, ministers insisted.

Responding to an Urgent Question in the Commons, Housing Minister Christopher Pincher said the legal rules of possession had changed so landlords seeking to evict tenants would have to ask if they had been impacted financially by the pandemic.

But he said it was right for evictions involving people engaged in anti-social behaviour to resume.

Charities have warned the freeze on evictions from social and privately-rented accommodation – originally introduced for three months from 25 May but then extended for another two months – is just a “stop-gap”.

Campaigners have said a more long-term safety net is required to help those who have lost their jobs or seen their incomes wiped out by the pandemic.

Raising the issue in the Commons, Ms Greenwood said the economic fallout from the pandemic was set to worsen and could have frightening consequences for those in short-term, insecure accommodation.

She urged ministers to acknowledge that without changes in the law, landlords “only need to follow procedures” and tenants who have lost income will be “forced out of their homes quite possibly in their thousands”.

“Why won’t he give judges discretion to look at the facts of individual cases?”

‘Unprecedented’

And Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire said the requirement on landlords to ask tenants about the impact of the pandemic on their finances was “toothless”.

Mr Pincher said research showed the majority of people were keeping up with their rental payments and, where this was not the case, landlords were showing flexibility by agreeing to payments holidays or other deferrals.

“I think that the landlord community understands the challenge that the economy faces, understands the challenge that their tenants face and is working proactively to support them,” he said.

He said the government had provided support to 8.6 million renters during the pandemic through the moratorium and other safeguards, such as the three-month minimum notice period for tenants.

“This is an unprecedented epidemic and in its face we have brought forward unprecedented measures to help tenants in difficulty.

“But I consider that it is important that cases such as serious anti-social behaviour are heard again,” he said.



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