A London council has welcomed losing a case in the court of appeal because it says the ruling will help protect vulnerable renters during the pandemic.
Thousands of renters have been granted a reprieve from eviction during the pandemic following the court ruling on Wednesday (27 May).
The housing minister, Robert Jenrick, announced in March that private tenants would not be evicted for at least three months during the pandemic. However, it was unclear whether those who were subject to eviction proceedings not yet concluded, before the outbreak, would be covered by the eviction ban.
Three court of appeal judges said they too were protected.
Tenant Kevin Okoro brought the case against Hackney council in east London after they commenced eviction proceedings against him for rent arrears on 20 December last year. He was in the process of appealing when the pandemic struck.
Okoro’s lawyers argued that in order to prevent the courts from being overwhelmed and to protect public health during the pandemic, the many people in the process of appealing against eviction notices should be included in the protection for renters announced by Jenrick.
The judges agreed and said that while the bar on evictions until at least 25 June continues during the pandemic, those in the process of appealing against eviction should also be protected from losing their homes and there should be a freeze on eviction appeal proceedings for the time being.
They said that many involved in these appeals were “vulnerable and unrepresented”.
In a separate development, Hackney council has written to Jenrick calling for the ban on evictions that he announced in March to be extended beyond June to avoid a surge in homelessness after the ban is lifted.
A Hackney council spokesperson said: “We welcome today’s ruling – Hackney has been clear that no evictions are to take place during the coronavirus lockdown and the safety of our residents is paramount. This case predates the coronavirus crisis, and while we had no intention of proceeding with the eviction in the current circumstances, we welcome the clarity it provides for similar cases and residents similarly concerned about having somewhere safe to stay at this time.”
Tim Baldwin, a housing law barrister at Garden Court Chambers, represented the tenant who brought the legal challenge. He said: “This ruling will protect thousands more vulnerable tenants from eviction until 25 June 2020.”