Ministers have extended the ban on landlords evicting tenants in England until 20 September, following warnings that thousands could lose their homes.
From Monday, courts were due to resume cases paused for five months owing to the coronavirus crisis, under stricter rules.
Now they will remain on hold for a further four weeks.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the move as an “11th hour u-turn”.
In a letter to judges, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton said that, having expected the end of the ban on Sunday, the proposal had been of “an extremely unusual nature and timing” but would allow further work to be done to prepare for the ban to be lifted.
One landlords’ group described the move as “unacceptable”.
How evictions work
Tenants get a minimum of three months’ notice of eviction in England and six months in Wales, until at least 30 September, compared with two months before the coronavirus outbreak.
Only after this notice period is up could courts theoretically hear a case. In England and Wales, eviction notices have been served but court decisions have been put on hold for the past five months.
The government is now planning for courts to resume hearing cases in England on 20 September.
In Scotland, a six-month notice period is proposed to be extended to March, subject to approval by the Scottish Parliament. Laws in Northern Ireland include a 12-week notice period.