For most of us home has been a lockdown sanctuary but, as restrictions ease, 1.7m renters risk being forced out of theirs thanks to the government’s three-month eviction ban ending on June 25. As calls for an extension grow louder, mum-of-four Emma faces eviction within weeks
‘I found out I was facing eviction three days before lockdown started. I’ve been running a cleaning business in Liverpool for six years, but had to shut up shop as soon as the schools closed to look after my four sons, George, 4, Kieran, 11, Danny, 16, and Ben, 21. As a single parent with no income and all my kids at home and suddenly not in education, I was already in a total state of anxiety. I still can’t believe it. The eviction ban has been a lifesaver but the fact is I’m still only weeks away from losing our family home. It’s a living nightmare.
I started falling behind on rent four months ago. I’d been managing my business full-time and was so proud of how well it was doing, but had to take a step back from working after a difficult pregnancy with George. He had a twin sister, but she sadly passed away at six months old. I was with George’s dad at the time, but the tragedy was so hard on us that communication broke down, and our relationship followed. I was ill and on bedrest for a long time after giving birth, so was relying on tax credits and child benefits to get by. Eventually, there was no longer enough money to cover my rent and bills, so I was desperate to get back to work. It’s only been in the last few months that I’ve felt well enough to work full time, and as soon as I heard the schools were closing my heart sank. Having to text my customers and tell them I couldn’t work so soon after starting back was heartbreaking.
As it stands, if the eviction ban is not extended we’re due to be evicted in a little over three weeks time. I’ve been trying so hard to look for places but it’s impossible to find somewhere to rent in this climate, and I can’t get a guarantor because I don’t have an income right now. I’m still receiving tax credits and child benefits, but between paying my water and electricity bills and feeding my boys three meals a day, I’m really struggling. Each day brings a new sense of dread as we edge closer to losing a home that’s been ours for the last four years. I feel so helpless.
I’m scared about the impact of all of this on my kids. I worry about Kieran falling behind at school. And lockdown has been hard on Danny, my sixteen year old. He really put his head down studying for his GCSEs, so is anxious now that he can’t sit them. To think that we might not have a roof over our heads on top of all of this is just unfathomable.
My parents can’t help me look after the children because they’re vulnerable, so I’ve not had a break during this time. It’s difficult going through something like this on my own – and with social distancing still in place, I can’t even have a hug from a friend. I’m incredibly stressed as my support system has completely gone. It’s so hard, but I’m still trying to get through each day.
I contacted Shelter as soon as I received my eviction notice. They’ve been so helpful in terms of telling me where I stand with the law, but I’m terrified of what will happen once lockdown is eased even more. I’m due at court on the June 25 where I’ll be evicted, so unless the government extends the eviction ban, me and so many other families will be out on the street with nowhere to live. Something has to be done to prevent this from happening.’
Here’s why the eviction ban is important
Private renters such as Emma will be at greater risk of homelessness if the eviction ban is lifted on June 25. The latest government figures show one in five (19%) households facing homelessness lost their last home due to the ending of a private tenancy. As Shelter point out, private renting is the most unstable type of housing for people and a leading cause of homelessness. That’s why Shelter are calling for support in asking Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to protect renters like Emma by extending the eviction ban.
‘We know private renting is deeply unstable at the best of times,’ says Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter. ‘Now with the Covid-19 crisis, we are hearing from terrified private renters who are struggling more than ever. Many have lost their jobs and as a result are falling into serious debt. Even before the pandemic councils were only able to help less than half the homeless households turning to them for support. The system will buckle if thousands more families become homeless once the eviction ban is lifted in a few short weeks.
‘We’re asking the government to properly protect renters before it lifts the eviction ban in England and Wales, by giving judges extra powers to keep people in their homes. Otherwise Emma and her family and thousands of other families will all too quickly end up with nowhere safe to call home.’
To get involved, please visit campaigns.shelter.org.uk and send an email to Housing Minister Robert Jenrick to demand more protection for renters.
You can also help keep families safe during the coronavirus outbreak by donating to Shelter’s emergency appeal at england.shelter.org.uk/donate.
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