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One million Britons fear losing homes when eviction ban ends tomorrow

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Are you an affected renter or landlord? 

Email katie.feehan@mailonline.co.uk with your story 

As the ban on evictions is lifted almost one million households fear being made homeless, new research has suggested.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said 400,000 have already been served with an eviction notice or told they may be evicted and a further 450,000 households are in arrears with rent, JRF said. 

A ban on evictions in England ends today, leading to warnings from housing campaigners that tenants face a wave of proceedings as bailiffs are allowed to resume using court orders for repossession.

JRF said the temporary ban on bailiff-enforced evictions has provided much-needed security to renters during the pandemic.

The ban was introduced in March 2020 and has been extended several times throughout the pandemic. 

The JRF survey of more than 10,000 households suggested ‘clear warning signs’ of a spike in evictions and homelessness as the ban lifts, the report said.

However, the lift will be welcomed by landlords, some of whom have been left with no recourse to take against tenants who have been simply unwilling to pay rent rather than those who are unable.

John Lewis, who rents out eight properties in Northamptonshire, says he feels like all landlords have been tarred with the same brush.

More than 800,000 households renting a home are worried about being evicted in the next few months, new research has suggested as the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions is lifted

More than 800,000 households renting a home are worried about being evicted in the next few months, new research has suggested as the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions is lifted

Speaking to MailOnline, he said: ‘I have bent over backwards to ensure that my tenants have been supported during hard times.

‘The main problem is the small percentage that choose not to pay the rent because they know that you cannot evict them.

‘Instead they have chosen not to answer emails and letters because they know you won’t visit them and some have even said ‘take a mortgage holiday.’

Mr Lewis says he has been forced to take some tenants to small claims court because he has been unable to evict them. 

‘I have always worked with tenants when they have struggled but the government have taken any control out of our hands.

‘It’s almost as though the government think that they can say and do whatever they want and the landlord suffers.

‘I know that there are bad landlords out there but they are a minority but we are all being tarred with the same brush.’

Rudolf Bozart says the pandemic has left him in arrears of £3,400 after he lost two jobs and now works as a delivery driver

Rudolf Bozart says the pandemic has left him in arrears of £3,400 after he lost two jobs and now works as a delivery driver

Meanwhile, renter Rudolf Bozart says the pandemic has left him in rent arrears of £3,400.

The company Mr Bozart worked for went bust and after finding a replacement job as a carer, he was then made redundant. 

The 26-year-old, who now delivers takeaways, told the BBC: ‘It is stressful and it’s affecting my health and it gives a lot of sleepless nights.

‘I just don’t know when I’m going to wake up to the dreadful message, saying that this is your notice because of the rent arrears.

‘So far the ban on eviction was my safety net for me not ending up on the streets.’

Rachelle Earwaker, of JRF, said: ‘For the 450,000 families locked in rent debt, the prospect of securing a mortgage is simply unimaginable and, worse still, many will now struggle to secure a new home in the private rented sector just as the eviction ban ends.

‘High levels of arrears are restricting families’ ability to pay the bills and forcing many to rely on hidden borrowing.

‘This is not only deeply unjust, it is also economically naïve and risks hampering our economic recovery, which is reliant on household spending increasing as society continues to reopen.

‘The Government’s decision to provide a generous tax break to wealthier homeowners through the stamp duty holiday while failing to protect renters points to a worrying two-tier recovery in which those who were prospering prior to the pandemic will continue to do so while those who have been hit hard will sink even further behind.

‘The cost of boosting support to tackle rent arrears is a fraction of the cost of the stamp duty holiday.’

Housing campaigners warn that tenants face a wave of proceedings as bailiffs are allowed to resume using court orders for repossession as the ban is lifted from today (stock image)

Housing campaigners warn that tenants face a wave of proceedings as bailiffs are allowed to resume using court orders for repossession as the ban is lifted from today (stock image)

The Government says the measures will ensure renters continue to be protected with longer notice periods for the coming months, while allowing landlords to access justice.

It claims 45 per cent of private landlords own just one property and are highly vulnerable to rent arrears. 

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher said: ‘As COVID restrictions are eased in line with the Roadmap out of lockdown, we will ensure tenants continue to be supported with longer notice periods, while also balancing the need for landlords to access justice.’

Mr Pincher added that ‘crucial’ financial support also remains in place including the furlough scheme which has been extended to the end of September and the uplift to Universal Credit.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher says the lift on the ban is about finding balance between supporting tenants and justice for landlords

Housing minister Christopher Pincher says the lift on the ban is about finding balance between supporting tenants and justice for landlords

Meanwhile, homelessness charity Shelter has warned the Government must do more to protect renters against the imminent threat of eviction and homelessness by providing financial aid. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘The lifting of the eviction ban signals the beginning of the end for many renters facing homelessness.

‘Thousands of people will wake up on June 1 knowing they’ll soon be kicked out of their home, with nowhere to go.

‘The ban has been a lifeline for private renters who have weathered job losses, falling incomes and rising debts in this pandemic.

‘But what happens now? Longer notice periods, while they last, will give some worried renters valuable time.

‘But come September, anyone facing eviction will have just weeks to find somewhere else to live.

‘The government needs to do more to stem the tide of rising evictions. It cannot waver from delivering a Renters’ Reform Bill that scraps Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions altogether. And in the meantime, it must offer renters with crippling Covid-arrears a package of financial aid.’

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Teenager arrested after car driven through Co Down parade, injuring two

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A teenager has been arrested after two men suffered minor injuries when a car was driven through a band parade in Co Down.

A 16-year-old has been arrested over a number of alleged driving offences and suspected common assault.

Police said a black Seat Leon failed to stop for officers and drove into the parade in the Newry Street area of Rathfriland.

The incident was reported to police at around 8.40pm on Friday.

Video of the incident shows the car driving towards the group before it mounts the footpath.

People can be heard shouting at the car to stop but it left the area at speed.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon district chief inspector Barney O’Connor said: “Last night, a black Seat Leon failed to stop, a number of times, for police who were on duty in connection with a band parade in Rathfriland.

“This vehicle then drove into the parade as it made its way up Newry Street.

“One man aged in his 40s and one man aged in his 30s received minor injuries following the incident.

“The male has been arrested on suspicion of six counts of dangerous driving, six counts for failing to stop for police, aggravated taking and driving away, disqualified driving, no insurance and three counts of failing to stop and report and remain at an injury road traffic collision.

“He was also arrested on suspicion of two counts of common assault and other related offences. He remains in police custody at this time.

‘Utterly reckless’

“At this stage, we are not investigating a sectarian hate crime motive in relation to this incident.

“Our officers are continuing to robustly investigate the circumstances of this incident.

“Officers have already spoken to a number of those present and I know this has been alarming for all those involved.

“I would like to thank those in the community and those involved from the band, who have already come forward, for their cooperation and assistance.”

Alliance councillor for the area Eoin Tennyson said: “Shocking reports from Rathfriland that a car drove through two marching bands last night.

“Utterly reckless and disgraceful behaviour. Thankfully no-one was seriously injured or killed.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “There is palpable anger across the unionist community following last night’s outrageous incident in Rathfriland in which a car was driven into two bands.

“This is entirely understandable as we could very well be waking up to news of many people injured or worse.

“The shocking behaviour captured on film needs to result in a robust PSNI investigation and arrests.” – PA

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Floating assets: Static homes on water are the new des res

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Living on a narrowboat or barge might be a dream for many, but the practicalities can be daunting; filling up water tanks with a hose, having to take the boat off to pump out and running out of electricity.

But it’s now possible to buy a modern static houseboat, which is just like living in a flat on water with the advantage of a beautiful location and being cheaper than a home on dry land.

Caroline Clark, 55, bought a luxurious 45 ft by 16 ft floating home from Prestige for £230,000 and is waiting to move in next month. 

Tranquil: Caroline Clark and her dog Aggie on their Prestige floating home at Priory Marina on the Great River Ouse, just outside Bedford

Tranquil: Caroline Clark and her dog Aggie on their Prestige floating home at Priory Marina on the Great River Ouse, just outside Bedford

After she sold her bungalow in a village just outside Bedford, she put the deposit down and worked out with Prestige exactly what she wanted for her home: a study rather than a second bedroom, and a separate bathroom and walk-in wardrobe instead of an en suite.

Since April, she’s been living in the showhome at Priory Marina on the Great River Ouse, just outside Bedford, where there will eventually be 12 houseboats.

Caroline had frequently walked round the back of the marina and seen all the boats moored there and thought they seemed appealing. 

So, when idly looking for properties for sale, she saw the floating homes advertised on Rightmove and couldn’t believe it.

‘I sent the link to my parents saying I’m tempted by this, then went to see it and immediately fell in love with the whole place.

I remembered going to Amsterdam in the past and seeing the houseboats on the canal and thinking what a fantastic way of life, but never imagining that I could live like this in Bedford,’ she says.

She hadn’t thought about living on a boat before as she didn’t want all the hassle involved and the potential cold in winter.

‘But these houseboats give you all the benefit of a boat, in fact with much better views out of the French doors, as well as the luxury of central heating, sewerage and running water from the mains.

‘As I live on my own, apart from with Aggie my rescue dog, those things are important.’

Caroline says she can walk into the centre of town in 20 minutes, swim in the river and she’s bought a big Canadian kayak.

‘You start doing different activities when you live on the water. It’s very sociable here, too. So far, there are four other boats on my pontoon and the owners are all in their 50s/60s.’

But it’s not that cheap to live on.

‘You can’t get a mortgage and insurance is quite expensive as if anything goes wrong, you have to pay for salvage. 

‘I pay about £900 a year and £3,000 in annual mooring fees, which includes water and sewage,’ she says. ‘But it would take a lot to tempt me away from here. 

‘There is a lovely tranquillity about this place and you feel connected to nature. It’s like a little haven in Bedford, tucked away, and it feels magical to be part of it.’

Nine similar floating homes are also available at Sawley Marina in Nottinghamshire, priced from £179,000, prestigehomeseeker.com.

Richard Homewood, of River Pod Houseboats, has been making bespoke floating homes for more than four years. 

Based in Kent, he delivers them on a low loader lorry all over the UK and these environmentally friendly houseboats have been bought by people as young as 22 and as old as 80, who all want a slightly different way of life on the water.

‘All our boats are on mains water and plug into mains electric. Sewage can either be pumped out every six months, plumbed into mains drainage or if someone chooses to have a Klargester system installed, the dirty water is treated and sanitised before going back into a river or into a holding tank. Then it only needs to be pumped out every one to two years,’ says Richard.

A couple of these homes have been bought for use as an Airbnb.

Tara and Quentin Branson, who are commercial builders, live near Allington Lock on the River Medway, Kent.

They bought The Lady Florence, which is moored alongside their land for £100,000 and have been surprised how much interest they have had in it.

‘We’ve used it a bit, it’s so beautiful on the river and a step away from our hectic life, but it’s fully booked through August.’

And they are so pleased with their investment, they are thinking of buying another. One, two and three-bedroom River Pods start from £68,000, theriverpodcompany.co.uk.

One problem to be aware of when buying a houseboat is finding a suitable mooring, which can be difficult. So, if you can find a houseboat that already has a ‘home’, then that should really float your boat.

On the market… and on the water

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‘They are everywhere in this area’

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We should see plenty of action in an hour, Dr John Dunbar says assuredly via email, excited at the prospect. As a venom expert, many nights are spent combing the walls and railings of Dublin housing estates for Ireland’s highly-poisonous false widow spider.

Alone in the dark, armed with extended tweezers and a headlamp, he carefully places each one inside long plastic tubes as the residents sleep inside, blissfully unaware.

On a chilly evening thousands of such spiders are scattered just out of sight along Beech Park, a long quiet suburban road in Lucan lined with detached homes and webbed hedges. The noble false widow – or steatoda nobilis – first recorded in Ireland in 1999 is far more common than most people realise and its numbers are increasing alarmingly.

Within two minutes Dr Dunbar is poking at a web string. He has spotted two long, thin protruding legs, inconspicuous to the passerby. It is the first trophy of 94 that night.

Although he has handled thousands, Dr Dunbar has never been bitten. Twenty bites have been recorded in Ireland, he declares, and the bite is one to be avoided.

Hospitalised

“In some cases [bite symptoms] are so mild they just observed it for a couple of hours and it was pretty much gone,” Dr Dunbar explains. “Then we’ve had other cases where people have been hospitalised.”

In some cases victims have experienced severe bacterial infections, debilitating pain and body tremors.

Steatoda nobilis is compared to the notorious black widow for a number of reasons including notable similarities in appearance, genetics and toxins. It is known as the “false widow” because in regions where they co-exist it can be difficult to tell them apart.

Smaller than the native house spider, chocolate brown with a large bulbous abdomen and an intricate cream pattern sometimes resembling a skull, the false widow is easy to identify.

Five or six years ago researchers would have had to look hard for one. Today, a single hunter can expect to bag between 100 and 150 in a few hours in any suburban estate.

Thought to have originated in the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira and the Canaries, it arrived in the United Kingdom and Europe on banana boats. Throughout the 20th century it established thriving populations throughout England and Wales, and later colonised parts of western Europe, California, Chile and the Middle East.

Although found in Co Wicklow a little more than two decades ago, little was known about its presence here until more recently. A 2017 Royal Irish Academy study confirmed the species in at least 16 counties, but most significantly in the greater Dublin area where it is abundant in urban buildings and around street furniture.

As Dr Dunbar walks slowly from suburban home to home, he identifies and scoops up the spiders from virtually every single driveway pillar he examines. His head torch illuminates the undersides of wall ledges, shrubs, gates, guttering, the back of ESB boxes. They are everywhere. After just a short while it seems other native species are relatively difficult to come by.

“[Their urban habitats] bring them in conflict with humans,” Dr Dunbar explains. “Usually the spider accidentally gets entangled in clothing or bed sheets and when they’re unintentionally pinned or squashed the spider actually bites, purely in defence. They’re actually quite a docile species.

Potent venom

“But they do have a venom that’s a little bit more potent than what we’re used to. It’s very similar to the venom of black widows, not quite as potent, but still kind of getting there.”

The risk posed are similar to ones posed by bees and wasps. Each spider can give about half of one microlitre of venom, about one thousandth of a millilitre. On his regular hunts Dr Dunbar tells the gardaí he will be prowling. The glow from his headlamp and his intricate inspection of neighbourhood walls are common, as are encounters with neighbours.

Just as he is plucking a sample with his extended tweezers, a resident approaches with a fair idea of what is going on but curious all the same. “They are obviously everywhere in this area,” Colm Gallagher says resignedly. “I know what the implications are; they have venom and whatever else. But they’re not terribly dangerous.”

They do go inside houses, but not usually. Whether for the curious resident, the arachnophobe or the scientist, there is still a lot to learn about these creatures and a race to learn it.

“They are here to stay, there is no way we’re going to get rid of them,” he says. “But we really need to monitor them while we can over the next years and see what happens. Now science must tell us what we are dealing with,” he said.

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