A BARNSLEY MP has accused the government of ‘breaking its promise’ that people renting properties would be protected from eviction during the coronavirus crisis.

John Healey, Wentworth and Dearne MP and Labour shadow housing secretary, said new legislation to protect renters who may have suddenly lost their income from being evicted ‘just gives them some extra time to pack their bags’.

The emergency measures, announced on Monday, extend all eviction notice periods from two months to three months - with the government able to add a further three months if necessary.

But Mr Healey said the change was a step back from the outright ‘evictions ban’ that had initially been promised by Boris Johnson’s government, with no provision for rent arrears that may build up.

The bill also doesn’t stop landlords from serving eviction notices on tenants.

“I’m afraid it’s now clear Boris Johnson has broken his promise to renters,” said the MP.

“It beggars belief that the government is not willing to make this simple change.

“We wrote to give ministers the legislation to provide the protections renters need: ban evictions and suspend rental payments beyond the crisis.

“This is the help promised for struggling homeowners.

“Coronavirus is a public health emergency, it need not become a crisis of housing and homelessness too.

“But this will happen if the government continues to refuse to take the most basic steps to keep people in their homes.”

There are more than 88,000 privately rented properties in Barnsley. Two-thirds of those in private rented accommodation have no savings, while 80 per cent of council and housing association tenants also have no savings to fall back on, according to figures from the government’s English Housing Survey.

John added: “Ministers must step up and give renters the confidence that they won’t lose their home as a result of falling ill or self-isolating because of coronavirus.

“Renters are more likely than homeowners to have no savings fall back on so the need for clear, legal protection is particularly important.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, said the legislation also made no provision for eviction proceedings already in progress through the courts - which could still see thousands of renters legally evicted over the next three months.

“This means people trying to isolate or socially distance, and even some within the shielded group, could still lose their home in the coming weeks, and even more may face eviction by mid-June,” she said.

“It defies belief that while so much effort is going into a coordinated medical response to this pandemic, the government is prepared to allow so many evictions to continue - putting at risk not just those losing their homes, but also the people they are forced into contact with.

“This emergency legislation must not continue in its current form.

“We need a wholesale and complete halt to all evictions so that no-one is left without a home during this public health emergency.

“Anything less is a huge risk we do not need to take.”