College joins calls to protect renters during COVID-19 pandemic

20 Aug 2020

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has joined with 15 other public health bodies in the UK to call on the UK Government to extend their current eviction ban and protect renters. We’re joined together to write to the Housing Minister Robert Jenrick MP to raise concerns about the increased risk of COVID-19 likely to be faced by people who are made homeless. The letter calls for the UK Government to:

College

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has joined with 15 other public health bodies in the UK to call on the UK Government to extend their current eviction ban and protect renters. We’re joined together to write to the Housing Minister Robert Jenrick MP to raise concerns about the increased risk of COVID-19 likely to be faced by people who are made homeless. The letter calls for the UK Government to:

  1. Maintain emergency funding for homelessness prevention and shelters
  2. Maintain the emergency ban on evictions while the pandemic continues to spread
  3. Implement its promise to scrap Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions before the emergency ban is lifted
  4. Amend the Housing Act so that rent arrears built up during the COVID-19 crisis cannot be used as a grounds for eviction 
  5. Ensure that no one who has lost income due to COVID-19 is made homeless as a result 

The full text of the letter states:

Dear Mr Jenrick, 

One of the major economic and social symptoms of the COVID-19 crisis is the large number of private renters now in rent debt to their landlord as a result of the pandemic. Towns and cities across the UK are now facing an avalanche of evictions.

Income loss & housing insecurity 

The pre-existing unaffordability crisis in the private rented sector means that many renters on furlough were not protected from entering into arrears. Many renters were entirely ineligible for the government’s income protection schemes. Research from StepChange shows that 590,000 tenants are in rent debt, at an average of £1,076 per household. Data from Shelter shows that 120,000 tenants in rent debt have already been issued an eviction notice and a further 175,000 have been threatened with eviction. The Bank of England has warned that unemployment will reach 2.5m and the numbers of people in rent debt will surely increase with job losses. 

Extending eviction ban

Until now, the government’s temporary ban on eviction and its funding for emergency homelessness support has helped to stave off some of the worst impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. Now that these measures are being withdrawn, we are deeply concerned that the government does not have an adequate plan to address the growing rent debt crisis and to prevent a catastrophic wave of evictions and homelessness as we head towards autumn and winter. 

Housing determinants of COVID-19 risk and transmission


To tackle the pandemic, it is essential to ensure that everyone has access to secure and safe accommodation where they can address their health needs and isolate if needed. People forced into overcrowded temporary or emergency accommodation by eviction are at greatly increased risk of being unable to isolate if needed, face greater challenges in following social distancing guidelines and may lack adequate access to basic hygiene measures shown to reduce infection rates. People who experience street homelessness have almost no opportunity to self-isolate when needed. As public health organisations, we are deeply concerned that failure to prevent an evictions and homelessness crisis could significantly contribute to an increase of COVID-19 infections. 

Disproportionate public health impact of evictions & housing insecurity

The recent Public Health England report into COVID-19 disparities showed that housing was a key determinant in the unequal impact of the COVID-19 on Black, Asian, and minority ethnic households. As analysis of PHE data by Medact shows, there has been a concentration of COVID-19 incidence in areas where social deprivation is highest and in places where housing affordability is lowest. This is especially stark in London. Migrants with No Recourse to Public Funds are especially at risk of eviction and homelessness. Should the government fail to adequately prevent an evictions and homelessness crisis, it will be Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people who will be most exposed to risk of homelessness and to the public health impacts. 

Long term housing insecurity 

We are deeply concerned by gaps in the policies intending to replace the temporary ban on eviction. The new requirement on landlords to provide information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on their tenants to the court when seeking a possession order will fail to provide additional protections to renters unless amendments are made to the Housing Act. This is because judges will still be legally required to issue an eviction notice if the eviction process is properly followed by the landlord. 

We echo calls made by tenant unions, housing charities, local government, Mayors, MPs and parliament’s Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee for the government to protect private renters and prevent a new crisis of evictions and homelessness. As a matter of public health, and as essential preparation for a potential second wave of Covid-19, we urge the government to: 

  1. Maintain emergency funding for homelessness prevention and shelters.
  2. Maintain the emergency ban on evictions while the pandemic continues to spread
  3. Implement its promise to scrap Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions before the emergency ban is lifted
  4. Amend the Housing Act so that rent arrears built up during the COVID-19 crisis can not be used as a grounds for eviction 
  5. Ensure that no one who has lost income due to COVID-19 is made homeless as a result 

Signed,

British Medical Association – BMA Board of Science chair, Professor Parveen Kumar

Royal College of Physicians – Fellow, Dr Pippa Medcalf 

Royal College of General Practitioners – Chair, Professor Martin Marshall

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow – President, Professor Jackie Taylor

Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh – President, Professor Angela Thomas

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – Senior Vice President, Dr Ranee Thakar

Royal College of Psychiatrists – President, Dr Adrian James

Royal College of Emergency Medicine – President, Dr Katherine Henderson

Royal Pharmaceutical Society – President, Sandra Gidley

Royal Society of Public Health – Chief Executive, Christina Marriott

Faculty of Public Health – President, Professor Maggie Rae

Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine – President, Dr John Etherington 

Medact – Executive Director, Sophie Neuburg

Pathway (Faculty of Homeless and Inclusion Health) – CEO, Alex Bax

Nurses United UK – Lead Organiser,Anthony Johnson 

People’s Health Movement UK

London Renters Union – Jacob Wills

Acorn – Tom Renhard

Living Rent – Maria Torres Quevedo

Category: News


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