Housing minister Christopher Pincher has confirmed that the government won’t amend the definition of ‘substantial arrears’ back to nine months.
Landlords in England had been allowed to enforce possession orders with the county court bailiffs against tenants with more than nine months’ rent arrears, as long as these had been accumulated before the first lockdown on 23rd March.
However, the government made amendments to its Covid laws earlier this month, changing the definition of ‘substantial arrears’ so that rent accrued since the start of the pandemic would no longer be excluded – a move that the the NRLA heralded as as a reasonable balance as many landlords struggle with non-paying tenants.
The changes meant that tenants who were up to date with rent payments, but lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and have been unable to pay rent, could now be evicted – a move which housing charities and Labour MPs including Jeremy Corbyn have labelled, “cruel and disgraceful”.
In response to Green MP (pictured) Caroline Lucas’s written question asking Pincher to restore the definition to nine months, he said there were no plans to do this but that the measures were being kept under review.
He added: “The government believes that it is proportionate to widen the rent arrears exemption to the ban on the enforcement of residential evictions to cases where a court is satisfied that a possession order was granted on the grounds of rent arrears and where more than six months of rent is outstanding.
“This change is intended to balance the effect of the ongoing restrictions on landlords with the need to continue to protect tenants.”