As the government's eviction ban comes to an end, 1.7m renters risk being forced out of their homes. We spoke to mum-of-four Emma, who opened up about how it feels to be facing eviction in the midst of a pandemic
‘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. To then be told that I’m only weeks away from losing our family home is 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.
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 unless the government extends the eviction ban, me and so many other families will be out on the street with nowhere to live – it’s terrifying.’
*Since Emma’s story was first published in May 20202, we’re thrilled to report that thanks to Shelter, she and her family have now been rehomed.
‘Me and the kids are due to move into a new council property next week. We’re super excited and can’t wait to decorate’, Emma said. ‘I feel so lucky, but I can’t help but think about all the other families at risk of homelessness now that the eviction ban has ended. 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 now that the eviction ban has come to an end. 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.
‘Now the evictions ban has ended, the government must provide struggling renters with emergency funding to help them clear Covid-arrears and keep hold of their home’, Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter said.
‘More than 300,000 private renters have fallen behind on their rent since the pandemic hit. With this deadly virus on the rise again, there could not be a worse time to expose people to the threat of homelessness. And while some of the short-term protections – like longer notice periods – are welcome, they don’t apply to everyone, nor do they stop people getting deeper into debt.’
‘This crisis would not be happening if we’d had enough secure and genuinely affordable social housing to keep people safe. If Covid-19 is to teach the government anything about housing it must be that we need to build more social homes, and fast. It is the only way to stem the rising tide of homelessness.’
Anyone who is facing eviction or worried about losing their home can contact Shelter for free and expert help by visiting www.shelter.org.uk/get_help