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Minister stonewalls on landlord support

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A Government minister has batted back a question about landlord support during the Coronavirus pandemic with what appear to be out of date statistics.

When asked what plans there were to introduce specific financial support for landlords who had lost rent as a direct result of the pandemic, minister of state Lord Greenhalgh declined to say there would be any further support. Instead he said the Government was ‘supporting landlords by supporting tenants to continue paying rent’.

In his written answer to Lord Taylor, he then went on to say that ‘the recently published EHS Household Resilience Study found that 93 per cent of private renters are up to date on their rent’. This, he said, ‘indicates our package of support is working, and has prevented widespread arrears’.

Lord Greenhalgh did not name the study be was quoting but his comments appear to be a reference to last year’s English Housing Survey Household Resilience Study. It reported that in June-July 2020, 7 per cent of private renters (279,000 households) were currently in rent arrears, up from 3 per cent in 2019-20. It also said that a further 9 per cent of private renters believed were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ likely to fall behind with rent payments in the next three months, representing approximately 290,000 households. 

Overall 26 per cent of private renters reported finding it more difficult to keep up with rent payments since COVID-19 restrictions had been put in place.

Clearly things have moved on considerably since last July, and not for the better.

Support for tenants included support for businesses to pay staff salaries through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has now been extended until the end of April 2021, the minister said. ‘We have also introduced a substantial package of wider measures in 2020/21 to help those who are facing financial disruption during the current situation’.

He advised that ‘where landlords find themselves in coronavirus-related hardship, mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to six months, including for buy-to-let mortgages. The application window is open until 31 March 2021.The FCA has been clear that for borrowers who have taken six months’ holiday and continue to face ongoing financial difficulties, firms should continue to provide support through tailored forbearance options’.