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Calls mount for tenant support

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Calls have been mounting for the Government to provide financial support to tenants in England who are facing hardship because of the Coronavirus crisis.

Many households are building up unmanageable levels of rent arrears, and some are being threatened with eviction, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported this week.

Without immediate targeted support, renters who have seen their incomes drop will be at risk of real hardship this winter and may lose their homes, it warned.

With an estimated 700,000 households already in rent arrears, JRF has called on the Government to reinstate the pause repossessions until lockdowns, and the risk of further lockdowns, are lifted. It also wants immediate financial support for renters in arrears through ‘boosting funding for Discretionary Housing Payments and tweaking the way they are set up and administered’.

The charity said the rental market should be put on a more sustainable footing by making permanent the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit.

‘Millions of people are anxious about paying the rent over winter, having run down their limited savings, reduced their spending and borrowed from friends, family or the bank. The worrying number of households already in arrears shows renters are running out of options. Without action we could see a wave of evictions and a surge in homelessness over the winter’, said JRF director Helen Barnard.

‘Without action which seeks to address growing arrears, any ban on eviction or enforcement only kicks the can down the road, with renters vulnerable to losing their homes again as restrictions are lifted. A targeted package of support to address high rent arrears will give renters and landlords much needed breathing space as we continue to weather the storm’, she said.

Meanwhile the Landlord Knowledges’ Association has warned that those under 35 forced for the first time to rely on benefits to pay their rent are finding the support inadequate because it is limited to the cost of a room in a shared house. 

It has written to the Welfare Minister, Will Quince, calling for the Government to  adopt the recommendations of the Social Security Advisory Committee and suspend the Shared Accommodation Rate rule for at least a year.

‘It is unacceptable that younger renters are being forced to choose between building debts or compromising their health during a pandemic’, said NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle.

‘Whilst the vast majority of landlords have done everything they can to support renters whose finances have been hit due to the virus, it cannot be right that landlords and tenants are left to muddle through without greater support. 

‘If money can be found to subsidise meals out, the Government must find the finances needed to support tenants, and in turn landlords, to pay off rent arrears, sustain tenancies and protect people’s health’.