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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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Courts Service contradicts Garda declaration journalists were barred from court

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The Courts Service has openly contradicted An Garda Síochána’s declaration that journalists were barred from a court sitting in Waterford earlier this month on the orders of a district justice.

Former Fianna Fáil election candidate Kieran Hartley appeared before Judge Brian O’Shea at Dungarvan District Court on October 13th on a Section 6 public order charge for allegedly committing an offence against a family member of a local garda.

Journalists Eoghan Dalton and Christy Parker were barred for more than three hours from entering the court chamber by two gardaí, who said they had been told the judge had directed that no press be allowed in.

The decision to bar the press – the second time that this has happened to a court hearing where Judge O’Shea was sitting following an incident at a Dublin hearing in 2017 – has now been raised with Garda management.

During exchanges with the reporters, who questioned the decision, one garda said “no one is allowed in this morning”, and while they “honestly” did not “know any details of it” they had been “directed by the court to not allow anyone into it”.

The Garda Press Office later that day insisted “the presiding judge had directed that the court be cleared of persons not involved in the case” as a “voir dire” was in operation.

A voir dire normally occurs when a judge seeks to determine an issue in the course of a trial rather than in advance of one, and very rarely applies at District Court level. Journalists may witness proceedings but not report the details.

Direction

Questioned later, however, the press office said: “The court garda cleared the court as requested by the judge”, and that “it is understood that members of the media who so arrived after that point were inadvertently prevented from accessing the courtroom”.

The Courts Service on Friday said: “At no stage did Judge O’Shea or Courts Service officials issue a direction that the case should be held otherwise than in public”.

“The court sitting at Dungarvan District Court on Wednesday, October 13th, was a public hearing. It involved the hearing of certain arguments in a case, before the ‘substantive’ matter might be heard at another time,” the spokesman said.

“In the absence of an order the law requires that the proceedings take place in public: we are committed to that principle. The alleged actions of gardaí in not allowing access to some media is a matter for Garda management.

“These issues have been raised with Garda management,” said the Courts Service, which is understood to have checked its own records carefully ahead of making its public statement.

When the case came to court on September 22nd, solicitor Paddy Gordon, acting for defence solicitor Frank Buttimer, questioned the legitimacy of statements presented by An Garda Síochána. Mr Gordon claimed they were “not our statements and we want them examined forensically”.

Deferring the matter to the October 13th sitting of Dungarvan District Court, Judge O’Shea instructed that investigating Garda Tom Daly be present, along with his notebook and all original statements.

The judge also asked that Tramore District Superintendent Paul O’Driscoll attend the hearing, which would commence at 10am prior to the main court business.

Candidate

Mr Hartley unsuccessfully contested the 2014 European elections as Fianna Fáil’s Ireland South candidate. He resigned from the party acrimoniously in 2018 following his criticism of its handling of matters related to convicted paedophile Bill Kenneally, whose cousin Brendan was a former Fianna Fáil junior minister.

Judge O’Shea did not issue a written verdict on the present case against Mr Hartley, but it is understood the Garda testaments will stand as presented when it is heard.

Mr Buttimer said he was “not in a position to comment at present”.

Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman Martin Kenny said it was “highly unusual” and that he would be writing to Garda headquarters seeking an explanation. “Justice has to be seen to be done as well as being done, and I find it quite alarming that we’d be in this situation.”

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Darlington is cheapest for homes, London’s Kensington most expensive

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We all know about the North-South divide. We all know about the Prime Minister’s attempt at ‘levelling up’. We all know about the crumbling Red Wall.

But when it comes to property, the facts of the matter tell their own story. According to Churchill Home Insurance, Darlington in County Durham is the cheapest place to buy a property in the country, at just £58 per square foot.

Which is staggering when you compare it to the most expensive — Kensington in central London, where the average price per square foot stands at £1,721. 

Imposing: The Clock Tower in Darlington, County Durham - the cheapest place to buy a property in the country, at just £58 per square foot

Imposing: The Clock Tower in Darlington, County Durham – the cheapest place to buy a property in the country, at just £58 per square foot

Music giants Robbie Williams and Eric Clapton have homes in this exclusive royal borough home, as do entrepreneurs Sir Richard Branson and Sir James Dyson.

But here’s the twist: anyone looking to take advantage of Darlington’s prices might have to move fast because there are plans to turn this market town into the hottest property in the north.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is opening up a smart new division of the Treasury there over the next five years, moving about a quarter of the department. 

That’s about 400 people, many of whom will be local recruits. ‘We’re giving talented people in the North-East the opportunity to work in the heart of Government, making decisions on important issues for our country,’ explains Sunak.

So what are the draws of these polar-opposite locations?

Kensington is one of the crown jewels of London neighbourhoods featuring not just top museums but also a host of chic cafes, boutique shops, and even Kensington Palace, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge live with their children.

There are three Zone 1 underground stations and several independent schools, and you’re a stroll away from the West End. 

Upmarket: A terrace in Kensington, London, where the average price per square foot stands at £1,721

Upmarket: A terrace in Kensington, London, where the average price per square foot stands at £1,721

Top restaurants include Daphne’s and Launceston Place — both favourites of the late Princess Diana — and the iconic Bibendum with two Michelin stars.

There’s no surprises when it comes to property values in this area; they’re stellar. The cheapest property in Kensington for sale on Rightmove in the middle of October was priced at £40,000 and that was just a space in a car park. 

The most expensive listing, by contrast, was a seven- bedroom semi, with an eye-watering asking price of £30 million.

Of just over 510 property sales in the past year, the average price was a slightly more modest £2,169,235, according to Zoopla, but that’s after prices took a 4 per cent knock as fewer people bought in London during the pandemic.

It’s a different story in Darlington, which has a modest average property price of £172,724, according to Zoopla. 

But things are changing; there have been more than 1,600 property sales in the past 12 months and prices have gently risen 4.5 per cent. The most expensive home on sale is a four-bedroom detached house with grounds, for £700,000.

However that’s still an exception, with many more at the other end of the scale, where there are several two-bedroom terrace houses for sale at £45,000.

If you’re moving in, bone up on railway history — the world’s first steam train service began here almost 200 years ago. 

Otherwise, look out for a twice-weekly street market, the revamped Hippodrome theatre and the odd tribute to comic Vic Reeves and businessman Duncan Bannatyne, both brought up in the town.

Darlington is brimming with well-preserved Victorian buildings while you can stroll in the beautiful South Park. If you’re after the best of local food, the two-Michelin starred Raby Hunt Restaurant is the place to go.

The town has the buzz of a place on the move — there are modernisations under way at both the railway station (2 ½ hours to London, 30 minutes to Newcastle) and the indoor market.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak’s Treasury initiative is already putting Darlington on the map. ‘I know of several people from London who have moved here thanks to working remotely,’ says estate agent Henry Carver of Carver Residential. 

On the market: North-South divide 

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Facebook admits high-profile users are treated differently

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Facebook’s oversight board said the social media company hadn’t been “fully forthcoming” about internal rules that allowed some high-profile users to be exempt from content restrictions and said it will make recommendations on how to change the system.

In the first of its quarterly transparency reports published Thursday, the board said that on some occasions, Facebook “failed to provide relevant information to the board,” and in other instances the information it did provide was incomplete.

For example, when Facebook referred the case involving former US president Donald Trump to the board, it didn’t mention its internal “cross-check system” that allowed for a different set of rules for high-profile users.

Facebook only mentioned cross-check, or XCheck, to the board when asked whether Trump’s page or account had been subject to ordinary content moderation processes.

The cross-check system was disclosed in recent reporting by the Wall Street Journal, based in part on documents from a whistle-blower.

The journal described how the cross-check system, originally intended to be a quality-control measure for a select few high-profile users and designed to avoid public relations backlash over famous people who mistakenly have their posts taken down, had ballooned to include millions of accounts.

The oversight board said it will undertake a review of the cross-check system and make suggestions on how to improve it.

As part of the process, Facebook has agreed to share with the board relevant documents about the cross-check system as reported in the Wall Street Journal. – Bloomberg

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