ressure is mounting on the Government to step in and help renters who have fallen into arrears during the pandemic.
It is estimated that 15 per cent of London’s tenants, and 11 per cent nationwide, now owe their landlords money for back rent.
The current ban on evictions is expected to end on March 31 meaning hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of losing their homes this summer.
And with the furlough scheme due to end in April, these numbers are likely to increase.
Today, an influential group of charities and industry bodies called on ministers to bail renters out.
“The longer the Chancellor waits to take action, the more rent debts will increase, and the greater the risk of homelessness will become,” they warn in a joint statement. “Without additional support, more renters will lose their homes in the coming months, with the risk of an increase in homelessness.”
The statement is backed by big hitters including Crisis, Citizens Advice, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Money Advice Trust, National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), Nationwide Building Society, and Shelter.
They want chancellor Rishi Sunak to use next month’s budget to announce a “targeted financial package” to help renters in arrears. It also wants housing benefit and universal credit to be increased so that tenants can stay in their homes long-term.
“We urge the Chancellor to act now to avoid renters being scarred by debts they have no hope of clearing and a wave of people having to leave their homes in the weeks and months to come,” concludes the statement.
Earlier this month the Government announced that a ban on evictions would continue during the current lockdown. But Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, said the ban is only a sticking plaster. “The announcement does nothing to help over 800,000 private renters who have built rent arrears since lockdown measures started last year,” he said.
“The government needs to get a grip and do something about the debt crisis renters and landlords are now facing. A package of hardship loans and grants is needed as a matter of urgency.”
Research by the Resolution Foundation think tank found that a quarter of renters have lost income as a result of the pandemic, and as a result 750,000 households in the UK have fallen behind on rent – more than twice as many as last year.
“Unemployment looks set to rise, rather than fall, through 2021, potentially driving up arrears further still,” warned the report, which called on the Government to offer loans to help renters pay off their debts.