By Tanya Kriplani Manglani
Almost a year ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown in light of the speed at which the COVID-19 pandemic’s infection rate was rising. This move amidst unprecedent global circumstances was met by numerous concerns from different parts of the public. An example of this was the concern of worried tenants regarding the payment of their rents, as many of them no longer had stable incomes to meet these expenses.
In order to ease these concerns, the government issued a Practice Direction stating that repossession proceedings would be suspended from the 27th of March 2020, thus ensuring that no one would be evicted in the middle of a global crisis. The initial suspension period was originally intended to last 90 days, however, given the fact that the pandemic continued to disrupt normal life for much longer, the Practice Direction stood valid until the 20th of September 2020.
After this date, however, repossession proceedings recommenced despite clear evidence that the world is yet to overcome this pandemic. This means that many tenants found themselves once again in an incredibly vulnerable position. In an attempt to mitigate these difficulties, the government announced that whilst repossession proceedings would continue, tenants would not be evicted if they found themselves in an area where a local lockdown was in place, even if repossession orders against them had been issued. This maneuver was supposed to last until the 11th of January 2021, but was extended twice, once until the 21st of February 2021, and then again until the 31st of March 2021.
Clearly, any measure that ensures that people will not find themselves homeless amidst these incredibly difficult times is a positive one. Many experts in the field, however, believe that these are bare minimum measures that fail to acknowledge the root of the problem, and are as such simply postponing what will become a much larger problem if the government does not enact new measures to overcome the overall issue. In the words of the chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, “eviction ban or not, it doesn’t deal with the fundamental problem of rent debt”. It is hard not to concede to these arguments as if, once the health crisis starts to be solved, financial aid is not provided to renters who have suffered loss of income due to the pandemic, these people will inevitably be no longer protected from eviction and unable to repay their debts.
In order to avoid a homelessness epidemic after the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that more long-term plans that include financial aid to the British population must be put forth by the government.