Ministers have agreed a four-week extension to the evictions ban in England and Wales after warnings that hundreds of thousands of renters could lose their homes.
It follows growing unease that tens of thousands of people in rented accommodation who have built up large arrears during the coronavirus lockdown could be out on the streets within months.
The government confirmed there will be a new six month notice period to be in place until at least 31 March 2021 in order to give tenants greater protection from eviction.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick 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."
Mr Jenrick continued: "However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases."
Renters have been protected during the Covid-19 crisis by a Government ban announced in March, extended in June and which was due to end on Monday.
If it was lifted without extra protection, charities were warning that tens of thousands of outgoing tenants could be unable to find or access affordable homes, prompting a “devastating homelessness crisis”.
Shelter said by the end of June some 174,000 renters had been warned by their landlord that they are facing eviction, and 58,000 moved out after being asked to leave during the lockdown.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the "11th hour U-turn" but warned the evictions ban should be extended until a "credible plan" is in place to prevent anyone losing their home because of the pandemic.
"This 11th hour U-turn was necessary, but such a brief extension means there is a real risk that this will simply give renters a few more weeks to pack their bags," Sir Keir said
He added: "Boris Johnson has been warned for months about the looming evictions crisis, but stuck his head in the sand."
"People living in rented accommodation should not be paying the price for this Government’s incompetence."
"Section 21 evictions must be scrapped and renters must be given proper support. 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," Sir Keir continued.
Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Gillian Guy welcomed the extension to the evictions ban but called for further measures to aid renters who have got into arrears because of the pandemic.
“During this extended pause on new eviction proceedings, we hope the Government will work with Citizens Advice and others to put in place a series of protections which will help those who’ve built up rent arrears get back on their feet," she said.
“We’d like to see funding for a dedicated set of protections, including measures such as grants for those in arrears due to coronavirus.”
However, landlords were left frustrated. National Residential Landlords Association chief executive Ben Beadle heavily criticised the extension, saying landlords “cannot be expected to foot the bill for Government failure”.
He said: “A blanket extension is unacceptable, especially so close to the deadline.
“Landlords have been left powerless in exercising their legal right to deal with significant arrears unrelated to Covid-19, antisocial behaviour and extremely disruptive tenants who make life miserable for their neighbours and housemates.
“Private landlords cannot be expected to foot the bill for Government failure. There must now be a plan to support households to pay their bills and to compensate landlords fully for their lost income.”