Protesters gathered outside law courts in Coventry before marching into the city centre to call on the Government to do more to protect tenants against rent evictions.
Around 30 people joined the demonstration today (August 22), which was organised by the local branch of ACORN, a grassroots community union.
A Government freeze on evictions to protect renters during the coronavirus outbreak was extended by four weeks on Friday (August 21) following an outcry from campaigners who warn huge numbers of people faced being kicked out of their homes.
However the campaign group wants more to be done to protect those at risk of being made homeless, including scrapping Section 21 evictions, which allow landlords to remove tenants without giving a reason, as long as certain rules are followed. They also want an amendment to Section 8 notices, where landlords have to give a reason, the most common being rent arrears.
Paul Forey, of ACORN’s Coventry branch, said: “We were initially going to protest against the Government not extending the rent ban but they have now extended it for a measly one month.
“They have not solved the underlying problem at all, they have not got rid of Section 21 evictions and they have not amended Section 8 to make sure people can’t get kicked out for arrears during coronavirus. They have just kicked the can a few weeks down the road and at this rate there will be a huge surge of evictions.
“The only difference will be that instead of being in the autumn, it will be in the peak of winter.”
The group, who wore masks and came equipped with hand gels to guard against coronavirus, marched from Coventry Combined Court Centre in Much Park Street into Broadgate Square, where they spoke to passers-by about the campaign.
Research cited by ACORN shows that 230,000 private renters have fallen into arrears since the coronavirus crisis began, with almost half a million behind on payments overall.
The group has previously called for “proper protections” for renters, lodgers and mortgage holders affected by the outbreak. This includes abolishing Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and forcing landlords to write off any rent arrears accrued during the lockdown.
Mr Forey said: “Across the country, 230,000 renters have now accrued arrears during the coronavirus lockdown, so obviously a chunk of that will be in Coventry. So we are going to see a surge in evictions in the city after the courts resume proceedings. That’s going to affect everyone because you can’t stay home and self-isolate if you’ve been kicked out on the streets or into temporary accommodation.”
What is the Government doing?
On Friday, the Government extended the ban on evictions for four weeks, taking the total freeze to six months. New six-month notice periods will be in place for all bar the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse, until at last March 31, 2021.
Announcing the moves, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said: “I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of Covid-19.
“That is why today I am announcing a further four-week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months.
“I am also increasing protections for renters – six-month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.
“However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.”