Housing lawyers and campaigners are calling for an extension to the moratorium on evictions and a stay on possession proceedings in court similar to the one that ended in September last year. In response to the rapid increase of Covid-19 cases and the latest lockdown, the Legal Sector Workers Union (LSWU) and the Housing Law Practitioners Association have both issued public statements stressing that a continuation of possession proceedings was both a moral and employment rights issue.
In a joint statement, the LSWU raised concerns over the inadequate provision of health and safety in courts and the risk to court staff, security guards, lawyers and tenants.
LSWU Housing Group demands an immediate stay on possession proceedings, a continued ban on evictions, and accommodation for everybody sleeping on the streets.
If the government does not do this, the public health consequences could be catastrophic.
Our statement below ? pic.twitter.com/Xf1AXCP6ak
— Legal Sector Workers United (UVW) (@LSWUnited) January 6, 2021
Poorly ventilated conference rooms, judge’s chambers and court rooms are listed as a risk. In addition with travel to courts, a problem exasperated by the extent of court closures seen over the past decade. The union has said a move to remote hearings for possession cases is deemed inappropriate for cases where someone’s home is at risk.
The Housing Law Practitioners Association, in an open letter to the Secretaries of State for Housing and Justice, have outlined that people should not have to choose between putting their lives at risk and saving the roof over their head. ‘Nobody should lose their home during a pandemic where their personal and economic circumstances are entirely beyond their control. There are unprecedented times and peoples’ income and financial circumstances are worse that they were in March 2020,’ the group said.
HLPA submitted written evidence in the case of Arkin v Marshal in April las year on the difficulties faced by HLPA members and their clients during the pandemic. This evidence was not disputed at the Court of Appeal, and HLPA assert this evidence is equally relevant now.
In their letter, HLPA continue their push for the Government to abolish Section 21, suspend Ground 8 evictions and reform the benefits system. Section 21 is an eviction at no fault of the tenant. A landlord must only show the tenant is in eight weeks arrears to rely on Ground 8, once proved a judge has no jurisdiction to consider the reasons leading to the arrears.
The calls come against the backdrop of concern that the Government will not reintroduce the ‘Everyone In’ policy which aimed to house all rough sleepers at the start of the pandemic, as well as widespread criticism over the provision of free school meals and the inadequacy of Universal Credits. Both organisations call for recommitment and formalisation to the ‘Everyone In’ policy.
LSWU have offered their support to workers who hope to rely on section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, which protects employees from suffering detriment as a result of acting of failing to act on health and safety.
LSWU will support without hesitation any workers who feel unsafe going into court, and who wish to issue a s44 notice to protect themselves.
DM or email us to discuss your concerns in total confidence. https://t.co/9qg0OtHEIU
— Legal Sector Workers United (UVW) (@LSWUnited) January 7, 2021
An extension to the eviction ban was announced midday today, three days before the moratorium was due to be lifted. The Government has not yet announced an a stay on proceedings.