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Protests erupt in bid to end all Covid evictions

Mega landlords targetted as homelessness looms for thousands

HUNDREDS of activists joined forces at the weekend protesting against tenants’ evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic by some of the biggest landlords in the country.

Momentum activists held a series of socially distanced protests across England on Saturday as part of the grassroots group’s Eviction Resistance Campaign.

It has been launched in response to the “tidal wave” of evictions threatening renters once the evictions ban is lifted, with half a million people having gone into rent debt since the start of the pandemic after losing their income, according to Citizens Advice.

The protests came after Momentum activists wrote to major landlords in their areas, requesting they sign up to a pledge to make no “pandemic evictions.” 

Housing companies like Uncle Living and billionaire property-owner John Christodoulou were asked to back the pledge, Momentum said, but they “refused or failed to reply” according to activists.  

The campaign is demanding a moratorium on all “Covid evictions,” the cancellation of all pandemic rent debt, and an end to Section 21 “no fault” evictions altogether.

As part of its first ever “policy primary,” thousands of Momentum members voted to make building more social housing the organisation’s campaigning priority in Labour.

Momentum national co-ordinating group member Darran McLaughlin said: “While the wealth of millionaire landlords has continued to grow during the pandemic, tens of thousands of families are on the verge of homelessness.

“We should not live in a society where this happens. Housing is a human right.

“Our day of action will target landlords who have attempted to throw tenants out of their homes simply for asking for a rent reduction during the pandemic.

“We need a system which guarantees housing for all, but our current system only works to make landlords richer.

“We [are] taking this rigged system head on.”

Uncle Living has been contacted for comment. 

Last month, trade unions and tenant organisations said that an estimated 840,000 people who owe more than six months’ rent could be kicked out as they struggle to make ends meet during the current Covid-19 lockdown.

The warning came as councils expressed fears of a spike in homelessness when protective measures end, with a survey showing one in 10 local authorities in England expecting to see a wave of evictions soon.

In a letter to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, the leaders of Unite, Unison and GMB as well as tenant groups including the London Renters Union contrasted the government’s generous financial support for landlords — a reduction in stamp duty land tax for buy-to-let investments and mortgage holidays — with its failure to give renters adequate protection from homelessness.

Ministers are due to freeze the local housing allowance benefit this month, meaning tenants will get the same amount of money as the last financial year, even where rents have risen — effectively a benefit cut.

There are fears the move could force many into homelessness, with an estimated 2,688 people sleeping rough in England in autumn last year, according to the latest government figures. 

The Scottish government said that over 31,000 households north of the border were homeless or at risk of becoming so in 2019-20, while the figure in Wales was 12,339.

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