Pandemic can be over in under two years, says WHO chief

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the “11th hour U-turn”, but said “such a brief extension means there is a real risk that this will simply give renters a few more weeks to pack their bags”.

He said Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “stuck his head in the sand” for months, adding: “The ban should not be lifted until the Government has a credible plan to ensure that no-one loses their home as a result of coronavirus.”

Crisis director of policy Matt Downie said the Government must now use the time it has bought to deal with the issue properly rather than simply further extending the ban.

He told the PA news agency: “This is not the first time that we’ve had to reach the 11th hour to find out whether people desperately worried about homelessness will be protected from evictions.

“It creates deep concern, stress amongst people themselves who know that landlords want to evict them, but also for all of us trying to make sure we don’t see another wave of homelessness.

“It’s not a responsible way to go about managing people living in precarious situations up and down the country, and we very much hope September 20 doesn’t lead to us having to have exactly the same conversation on the 18th or 19th of September.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “A bullet may have been dodged with this extension but, as soon as Parliament returns, it must give judges extra powers to stop renters being evicted because of ‘Covid-arrears’.

“Facing eviction this Christmas is not a present anybody wants.”