By The Student View
More than 80 private landlords have started legal proceedings to get their tenants out despite court action being suspended during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Between April and September 2020, 83 private landlords in Lewisham and Greenwich launched claims for repossession even though they were put on hold until October.
This was an 82 per cent reduction in claims for house re- possessions from last year over the same time period as there were 301 claims in April to September 2019 compared to 55 in 2020.
In England and Wales, as a whole, mortgage and landlord possession claims fell by 89 per cent to 7,248 in the same period.
These figures released by the Ministry of Justice were analysed by students from Stationers’ Crown Woods
Academy during a NewsTalk conference with media literacy charity The Student View.
Chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, Ben Beadle, said: “Landlords have prioritised sustaining tenancies and supporting renters during the pandemic.
That said, they cannot continue indefinitely going without receiving rent.
Since the first lockdown in March last year, bailiffs have been unable to serve eviction notices except “in the most serious circumstances” for at least six weeks until the end of February 21 and this will be kept under review.
Mr Beadle, from the NRLA said it is important that the most serious case enforcement action must continue for the sake of landlords who have had tenants build up “significant arrears” before the Covid-19 outbreak.
He said: “The vast majority of landlords who have had tenants affected due to the pandemic have been working constructively to support them.
“We continue to encourage and support such action.
“The NRLA has campaigned in support of landlords whose tenants had built significant arrears that predated and were unrelated to Covid-19.
“These include cases where tenants engaged in antisocial behaviour and fraud.
“It is important that for the most serious cases enforcement action must continue.”
According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, these circumstances are illegal occupation, false statement, antisocial behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector, whereas property is unoccupied following death of a tenant and serious rent arrears greater than six months’ rent.
Ministers have also granted a three-month extension on notice periods so landlords should now provide a six-month notice period to tenants before evicting a tenant.
During this time, the Government also introduced a mortgage payment holiday for landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial hardship due to coronavirus, until at least the end of March 31, 2021.
Mr Beadle told The Student View how the Government “needs to get a grip and do something about the debt crisis” and suggested a“package of hardship loans and grants” rather than expecting landlords and tenants to “simply muddle through”.
While Lewisham Council explained how their team has helped prevent over 70 households being evicted illegally in the borough during the first six months of the pandemic.
A Lewisham council spokesman said: “Lewisham, like other London boroughs, is experiencing the severe effects of a housing crisis.
“We have nearly 10,000 households on the housing waiting list and more than 2,400 currently living in temporary accommodation.
“The council is working hard to deliver much-needed social housing and is committed to supporting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
“We have a dedicated team of officers who support tenants who are at risk of harassment or unlawful eviction.
“During the first six months of the pandemic we prevented over 70 households being evicted illegally.
“We are committed to prosecuting landlords who commit criminal offences where this is in the public interest, and there is evidence that makes a conviction possible.”
Residents in Lewisham can contact the Housing Options Team on Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on 02083147007 for help if they are threatened with homelessness.
However the local authorities have no powers to intervene in eviction cases carried out through the court but can signpost tenants to legal advice providers such as solicitors, Shelter and Citizen’s Advice.
Reporting by students of Crown Woods Academy is in Bexley Road, Falconwood, Greenwich.
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