Greater Manchester Leaders call for renewed eviction ban as those affected urged to access help

  • Leaders in Greater Manchester call for a new extended eviction ban in place until at least the summer
  • “I suffer from anxiety, this isn’t helping” – Greater Manchester residents in rent arrears describe how they have been personally affected
  • Tenants and landlords reminded help is out there for those struggling as a result of the pandemic, with 16,800 households in Greater Manchester estimated to be in arrears
  • A Bed Every Night and temporary accommodation already at full capacity, with concerns homeless system will not be able to cope with an increase in evictions

Greater Manchester Leaders are calling on Government to reimpose the ban on evictions until at least the summer as the wider impacts of the coronavirus crisis continue.

In two weeks’ time current rules introduced by Government will be lifted, meaning bailiffs will be able to enforce evictions again on 22 February. No evictions are expected to take place until 8 March at the earliest – apart from the most serious cases. Tenants must also be given a minimum of six months’ notice before they will have to vacate their rented property. But eviction processes are again moving through the courts, adding to the pressures on struggling tenants.

Now, residents from Greater Manchester living in rented accommodation have described the uncertainty and unhappiness while living in such uncertain circumstances.

Joanne, 40, currently rents a house in Rochdale and lives with her children aged 21 and 14. She has been told she must leave the property by April after being served an accelerated possession order. However, Joanne says looking for a new place to live is difficult under the current circumstances and said being protected for longer under the eviction ban would be a huge help.

She said: “I am looking for somewhere else and trying to do viewings of each property. I have three or four estate agents come back to me saying they have had that much interest. If I wanted to move at the moment I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere.

“You can’t go to the estate agents, you can’t get any viewings. You have to get an application in just to get a viewing.  You are not guaranteed a viewing, it is really hard. I think if I was given six months I would find somewhere. I suffer from anxiety, this isn’t helping. At the moment, with the lockdown and the pandemic, it is not possible to find somewhere.”

Nigel, 48, rents a bungalow in Rochdale and is currently struggling to pay rent after his work as a chef disappeared for the duration of the pandemic. He said being in rent arrears has caused a huge amount of stress, having never been in this situation before and is concerned his landlord could potentially evict him when there are no protections in place.

He said: “There is nothing I can do until the end of the pandemic. It has put me under severe stress - the amount of stress I am under is unbelievable.

“It has taken its toll on my mental health, I am trying to do what it takes to survive. I’ve not got confirmation of a 12-month tenancy agreement. I have lived here for eight years, it’s only the last year where it has gone wrong and I don’t want to keep living like this.”

There are an estimated 16,800 households in the city-region estimated to be in arrears due to the pandemic. The first eviction ban, introduced at the start of lockdown, was in place for six months and housing experts have said another longer ban would help to reduce difficulties for renters. Leaders are also asking Government to provide direct financial support to protect tenants and landlords to prevent the build-up of rent arrears due to Covid-19 impacts, as proposed by Shelter, the NRLA, Crisis and others.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “The Covid-19 outbreak has proved extremely difficult for many in our city-region and we understand people may be in a worrying financial situation which they may never have experienced before. In Greater Manchester we do not just ignore people when they fall on tough times; we pull together and offer support to those who need it.

“We already have more than 4,000 households in temporary accommodation and are also supporting 1,000 people through our A Bed Every Night scheme. The homelessness system in our city-region cannot take much more, a sudden surge in evictions will create a huge amount of pressure and I urge Government to reimpose the eviction ban to protect people who are in these circumstances through no fault of their own.”

Tenants and private landlords affected by the latest lockdown across Greater Manchester are being reminded there is easy-to-follow guidance on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority website. Both parties are being encouraged to work together to find solutions to eviction issues and to access the advice available.

Landlords are also reminded that illegal eviction is a criminal offence, and they must follow the correct legal process - this is in place to protect both parties.

GMCA Lead on Housing and Homelessness, Paul Dennett, said: “It is crucial Government steps up to provide direct financial support to protect tenants and offer assistance to help those in rent arrears. I also call on landlords to be compassionate during these unprecedented times and to consider the difficult circumstances tenants may find themselves in.

“During this unsettled period, the most important thing is for tenants and landlords to communicate with each other openly, honestly and constructively to avoid any preventable evictions. In some circumstances, landlords could consider reducing rent permanently, if a tenant’s income is reduced long term. And by offering a rent reduction that is less than the cost of re-letting, property owners can save money and sustain a tenancy - an often preferable outcome for all concerned.

“We are urging all parties to explore all routes and to be aware of the help out there, before anybody is unnecessarily put at risk of losing their tenancy. We will also continue to press Government to provide additional support to help tenants and landlords through this unprecedented emergency.”

Allison Fewtrell from GM Tenants Union said: "The Union calls on Government to extend the eviction ban now and cancel the unpayable rent debts caused by the economic impact of the pandemic, with a package to cover renters' arrears.

"Government must also abolish S21 'no fault' evictions. They should act now to properly regulate the private rented sector to prevent a huge rise in homelessness and end unfair evictions before lifting the pandemic restrictions currently protecting tenants. We encourage tenants worried about eviction to get in touch."

Tenants and landlords are being asked to explore the options available before an eviction process is initiated, whether that is agreeing a rent holiday, working on a revised rent repayment plan or supporting tenants in applying for financial aid such as Universal Credit. It is hoped that through this honest dialogue, solutions are found to avoid anybody being put at the risk of losing their home. According to a recent survey by the NRLA, 90% of their members have offered financial assistance in some way when asked by tenants affected by coronavirus.

Greater Manchester has a long record of helping people with housing during times of crisis, with more than 2,000 homeless people housed in hotels and other accommodation during the pandemic. An ethical lettings agency for Greater Manchester has been established by Greater Manchester housing providers, with support from the GMCA.

Article Published: 08/02/2021 09:58 AM