Labour and charities have demanded that a ban on evictions – due to expire on January 11 – be extended to stop tenants losing their “only refuge” as Covid-19 cases surge again.
But the campaign group Generation Rent has urged the government to go further to prevent renters falling into debt in the first place.
Landlords submitted six possession claims to the court between July and September in 2020, Ministry of Justice data shows – up from two during the previous three months.
But this was still well below pre-pandemic levels – 164 were issued during the same period in 2019.
All claims were from private or social landlords, with none from mortgage lenders.
While bailiffs are not allowed to evict people under the ban other than in exceptional cases, landlords and mortgage lenders can still issue possession claims in court.
Across England and Wales, the number of claims by landlords and mortgage lenders rose 28 per cent to 4,100 in the three months to September, although this was still significantly fewer than the 35,400 lodged during the same period in 2019.
Boris Johnson told the House of Commons the eviction ban is “under review” after being pressed on the matter by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who said it should be extended immediately.
Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, said: “It is just too dangerous to start evicting people from their homes with Covid case numbers so high.
“We all know the country is facing some of the toughest weeks ahead, the Prime Minister has said so himself.
“Now is not the time for people to lose their homes – their only refuge from this raging storm.”
Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, called for further action.
“During the first lockdown, renters who had received an eviction notice still felt pressure to move out, which is why we’re calling on the government to do all it can to prevent unnecessary house moves by suspending evictions,” she said.
“The government must also stop landlords from issuing eviction notices in the first place.”
Ms Kennedy said many more tenants are out of work than at the start of the pandemic, adding: “That means a lot of people are facing a shortfall on their rent – we need the government to prevent them from falling into rent debt.”
On top of the eviction ban, landlords seeking to remove tenants must give them six months’ notice until the end of March.
Home owners have until the end of March to apply for a mortgage holiday of up to six months, but those who have already had six months of payment deferrals cannot reapply.
A government spokesman said: “We’ve taken unprecedented action to support renters, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries – meaning no tenants have been forced from their home.
“We have changed the law and landlords must now give tenants six months’ notice before they can evict until March 2021 – except in the most serious cases such as anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse, where they can take action sooner.
“We are reviewing the measures currently in place and will provide more detail shortly, taking into account public health advice.”