MEASURES to protect thousands of people in rented accommodation from suddenly becoming homeless must be extended until after the Covid-19 lockdown, Barnsley MPs have urged.

At the start of the lockdown in March, legislation was introduced that extended the notice period for evictions from two to three months - with the government able to add a further three months if necessary.

The legislation does not stop landlords serving eviction notices on tenants, meaning that when housing courts reopen on June 25, there is likely to be a wave of proceedings that could see thousands in Barnsley evicted from their homes.

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock said: “The rental evictions ban must be extended to protect renters during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Thousands of tenants could lose their homes through no fault of their own as this crisis has pushed too many families into working poverty.

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“I will keep pressing the government to prevent unnecessary evictions and support vulnerable renters.”

The move was also criticised by Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, as a step back from the outright ‘evictions ban’ initially promised.

Former shadow housing secretary John said: “As Labour’s shadow housing secretary I called in March for the government to pause evictions for three months, which they agreed to do.

“But they need to do much more.

“Renters need the kind of protection already provided to owner-occupiers and commercial tenants.

“So the temporary ban on evictions should be extended for at least six months and evictions barred on the grounds of rent arrears, if arrears were accrued because of hardship caused by the coronavirus crisis.

“Then there should be a reasonable period of at least two years for renters to pay back any arrears built up during this pandemic period. It will take time for people to recover from this crisis and they need all the support Government can give them.”

Private renting is one of the leading causes of homelessness, according to housing charity Shelter.

As per the most recent government figures, 267 households in Barnsley were assessed as being owed a prevention or relief duty - a duty to prevent them from becoming homeless, or find an alternative if that’s not possible, respectively - by Barnsley Council from October to December.

End of a private tenancy was the most common reason for the loss, or threat of losing, a home - at 23 per cent of total cases - with the majority of households seeking support living in private rented accommodation at the time of their assessment.

There are more than 88,000 privately rented properties in Barnsley, with two-thirds of tenants having no savings - while 80 per cent of council and housing association tenants have no savings, according to the government’s English Housing Survey.

Universal Credit and Jobseekers’ Allowance claims in Barnsley have also soared since lockdown began - from 3,085 in March to 5,640 in April.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “If government truly wants to keep people off the streets during this pandemic, it must give judges the power to ensure no renter is made homeless when the eviction freeze ends in June.”

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has put a series of proposals to the government - including extending the eviction notice period, preventing evictions arising solely from Covid-related arrears, reforming Universal Credit and financial support to landlords and housing associations.

CIH chief executive Gavin Smart said: “Simply ending all these measures without a plan to cope with the arrears built up through the outbreak risks pushing families into homelessness and landlords into bankruptcy, just at a time when a stable housing sector is needed to help rebuild our economy.”