An estimated 200,000 children living in privately rented homes in England are at risk of being evicted this winter, a poll has suggested.
Up to 104,000 families received an eviction notice in the last month or are behind on their rent, YouGov polling conducted for the housing charity Shelter has found, meaning the equivalent of one in every 50 children in England face eviction.
Mother-of-two Rachel Walker received a no-fault eviction notice for her Essex home in 2019 and the threat has been hanging over her family ever since.
She told Channel 4 News: “It’s like there’s this huge black cloud just hanging over you.”
A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLHC) spokesperson said they are spending £316 million on tackling homelessness in the next year and helping vulnerable renters in arrears through a £65 million support package.
The government placed a ban on bailiff-enforced evictions last year as lockdowns were brought in to tackle the spread of Covid-19. This ban expired in England in May and in Wales in June this year.
In Scotland, evictions were banned during the pandemic, except for under certain circumstances, but this was lifted earlier this year as the country moved out of level three and four coronavirus protection levels.
Rachel has not received a court date for her eviction notice, but she fears that it could come at any point.
She said: “I just feel that uncertainty. It’s something you can’t explain unless you’re in this situation.”
She added: “The only thing I really consider is how this is going to affect the kids, not ourselves, because we’re adults, we can deal with this.
“But what this is doing to our kids is unbelievable and unfair.”
Shelter commissioned YouGov’s research which reached out to 3,600 families.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “People have really built up debt during the pandemic, and of course, people were thankfully protected from eviction when we had lockdowns still in place. But the ban on evictions is gone, furlough has gone.
“So we’re kind of seeing the perfect storm that people simply cannot afford to rent.”
With the pandemic hitting another peak, there are calls to bring back the eviction ban, but landlords say it puts the burden on them.
Chris Norris, director of policy at the National Residential Landlord Association, said: “Unfortunately, what happens when you prevent possessions, you prevent landlords being able to go to court, is you just shift the financial burden from the household to the landlord.
“What really needs to happen is money needs to be put in the pockets of those people struggling to pay their rent.”
A DHLC spokesperson said: “Tackling homelessness is a government priority. That is why we are spending £316 million on this in the next year to build on the success of the Homelessness Reduction Act, which has prevented 400,000 households from becoming homeless or supported them to settled accommodation.
“Our action throughout the pandemic helped keep people in their homes and the vast majority of tenants are up to date with their rent. We’re also helping the most vulnerable renters in arrears through a £65 million support package.”