A charity claims that private tenants in the areas with the higher tiers of Coronavirus measures face “harsh enforcement” if they fall into arrears, and are not being protected adequately.
Citizens Advice says it has identified “a series of gaps in protections which mean people unable to pay essential bills could fall into debt or face harsh enforcement.”
The charity claims that in contrast to the eviction ban period over the spring and summer, tenants now have less protection.
In Tier 1 areas that protection is the six month notice period and the increased Discretionary Housing Payments; in Tier 2 and Tier 3 the additional protection is that bailiffs shouldn’t enter properties to enforce warrants.
The charity wants tenants in Tiers 2 and 3 facing eviction to be given at least one month's notice when local restrictions come to an end before they are made to leave their home.
In addition it wants a national programme of government-backed grants and loans for tenants struggling to pay rent because of the pandemic. Tier 3 areas should be prioritised for these new grants, it says.
Jamie McGlynn, a Citizens Advice manager in Manchester, says: “Now that many of the protections have been lifted, we’re seeing a surge in people contacting us for help as bailiffs, debt letters and eviction notices start up again.
“Added to that, there have been a lot of redundancies announced in recent weeks and many people we help are working reduced hours because of the impact of the first lockdown.
“If we move into the ‘Very High’ tier without further protections in place, I’m worried about a perfect storm where people already struggling to keep their head above water financially are going to really suffer.”
“We’re also seeing lots of people whose income has dropped to nothing as they self-isolate. They’re hugely worried about the possibility of missing vital bills or running up rent arrears.”
No figures are given by the charity as to the increase in evictions.
Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Gillian Guy adds: “Lifting these protections was founded on the prediction that household finances would improve as the UK left lockdown. For many in the highest tier of Coronavirus restrictions, this will now simply not happen.
“… Help for people living in the areas of strictest lockdown is confusing, inconsistent and, in some areas, inadequate. As more parts of the country move into the highest tier of Coronavirus restrictions, a renewed package of protections and support is vital to keep people living there from falling into further debt.”