Ministers extended the temporary eviction ban by four weeks on Friday after warnings that a “wave of homelessness” would lead to a spike in coronavirus infections.

The Government confirmed that the temporary ban on evicting tenants would continue until September 20 in what Labour described as an “11th-hour U-turn”.

Sixteen public health organisations had warned that thousands of people being made homeless would “significantly contribute to a rise in coronavirus infections”.

Landlords will be required to give any tenants they want to evict six months notice, with this separate provision in force until “at least March 31 2021”, ministers said.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced the extension after charities warned that there could be mass evictions around Christmas, leading to a “devastating homelessness crisis”.

Renters have been protected during the virus pandemic by an evictions ban announced in March and extended in June, but it had been due to end in England and Wales next week.

Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, said: “I know this year has been challenging, and all of us are still living with the effects of Covid-19. That is why today I am announcing a further four-week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months.

“I am also increasing protections for renters – six-month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.”

Renters can only be evicted in the “most egregious cases”, such as being guilty of anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.

A survey by homelessness charity Shelter suggested that more than 170,000 private tenants have been threatened with eviction by their landlord or letting agent.

Polly Neate, the Shelter chief executive, said: “It is right for the Government not to lift the ban when it risks exposing people to eviction and the threat of homelessness with no means of defence. The Government must use this short window of time wisely to put proper safeguards in place for renters.”

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, estimated that 420,000 children would have returned to school in September with the threat of eviction hanging over them if the ban had not been extended.

In Wales, landlords must give six months notice before eviction, and Scotland plans to extend the eviction ban until March 2021 pending expected approval by Holyrood.

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