Labour wants tenants running up arrears during the Coronavirus crisis to have two years to repay them, as part of a five-point ‘emergency action plan’.
It claims that current measures set out by the government in the Coronavirus Act fall well short of adequately protecting people from homelessness when they cannot pay their rent.
And Labour’s new housing spokeswoman, Bristol MP Thangam Debbonaire, says her party would use temporary legislation to protect tenants from bankruptcy and homelessness due to rent arrears.
Labour’s five-point plan states:
1 Extend the temporary ban on evictions for six months or however long is needed to implement the legal changes below;
2 Give residential tenants the same protections as commercial tenants, by protecting them from being made bankrupt by their landlords for non-payment of rent;
3 Bring forward the government’s proposal to scrap Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and outlaw evictions on the grounds of rent arrears if the arrears were accrued because of hardship caused by the Coronavirus crisis;
4 Once evictions are prevented, grant renters at least two years to pay back any arrears accrued during this period;
5 Speed up and improve the provision of Universal Credit and consider a temporary increase to the Local Housing Allowance to help prevent risk of homelessness.
Debbonaire says: “Current protections for people renting their homes are woefully inadequate. Unless the government acts now, many thousands of tenants will be at risk of losing their homes.
“The government has paused evictions for three months and answered Labour’s call to increase the Local Housing Allowance.
“Both are welcome, but do not go far enough. It will take time for people to recover from this crisis and they need all the support we can give them to prevent what would be an unprecedented and devastating spike in homelessness.
“In the long term we need to fix the housing crisis – with stronger rent regulations and much more affordable and social housing – so that everyone has a home that is safe, secure, environmentally sustainable, and that they can afford to live in. What we need right now is an emergency package to set us on that path.
“Every Thursday we clap for key workers but many of them live in homes that are overcrowded, unsafe or expensive. When we emerge from this public health crisis, we cannot go back to business as usual.”