Boris Johnson has his “head in the sand” and is ignoring warnings of a looming crisis for renters, Sir Keir Starmer has told The Independent, as thousands face losing their homes when the eviction ban expires in just four days’ time.
The Labour leader’s intervention came as legal experts wrote to Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, claiming that he is on the cusp of breaking his commitment that no tenant will be evicted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government has so far dismissed pleas from charities to extend the moratorium on evictions for England and Wales and is instead pressing ahead to allow possession cases to resume in the courts after 23 August.
According to polling research by leading housing charity Shelter, almost 230,000 adult private renters in England have fallen into arrears since the start of the crisis, while 174,000 have been threatened with evictions by landlords or letting agents.
“After the results fiasco, the government is yet again ignoring warnings of a looming crisis,” Sir Keir claimed.
Referring to the plans by the Scottish government to extend the country’s eviction ban until spring 2021 – pending a vote at Holyrood – he said: “Other parts of the UK have acted to protect renters, yet the prime minister has his head in the sand.”
The Labour leader said: “Unless the government extends the ban on evictions, provides more support for tenants and follows through on its promise to scrap no-fault evictions, tens of thousands of people risk losing their home.
“Last week, the incompetence of Boris Johnson and his ministers jeopardised young people’s future. This week, they are risking people’s homes.”
While no legal evictions of renters have been permitted to take place throughout the pandemic, landlords still have the ability to serve tenants notices to leave a property without giving a reason – under Section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act.