In the twelve months leading up to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, BHT’s advice centres in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings prevented 927 households from becoming homeless.
We welcomed the government’s decision to put a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. That didn’t mean, however, that people were not becoming homeless. People lost their accommodation for many reasons including relationship breakdowns, being asked to leave during the lockdown while sofa-surfing, and not being able to afford the cost of their homes, because they had lost their jobs or their income was otherwise reduced.
Some of these people will have ended up sleeping rough.
We are also seeing people being illegally evicted. In recent weeks our three advice centres came across 20 cases (13 in East Sussex and seven in Brighton & Hove) where landlords had illegally evicted, or had tried to evict (again illegally) their tenants. Five of these cases are ongoing. All were in privately rented accommodation.
We are working with Citizens Advice Brighton and Hove to put pressure on the government to increase security for private renters, one in three of whom have lost income during the pandemic. Their research suggests that half a million private renters are now in rent arrears.*
It has been difficult for some landlords who haven’t received rent. Our advice to tenants has been that the eviction moratorium is not a rent holiday. The arrears you owe will still be owed and those in arrears who are not engaging with their landlords may well face eviction when the moratorium is lifted.
If you are facing eviction, whether you are a private tenant, a tenant of a social landlord (housing association or local council), or are in mortgage arrears, get advice and representation as soon as possible. Details of our advice centres can be found on the BHT website.
BHT’s three advice centres have remained open throughout the pandemic. The challenge they will face is when the moratorium is lifted and our advisers are faced with advising and representing an unprecedented number of cases in the following twelve months.