A coalition of property and housing organisations, including Reside’s regulatory body ARLA Propertymark, have come together to call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help private renters pay off COVID-19 rent arrears and help sustain existing tenancies.
Across the nation, at least half a million private renters are in arrears due to the economic impact of COVID-19. The UK Government’s own research shows that ‘private renters report being hardest hit by the pandemic’.
The joint statement issued by Propertymark, NRLA, The Big Issue Ride Out Recession Alliance, Citizens Advice, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Crisis, Money Advice Trust, Nationwide Building Society, The Mortgage Works, StepChange Debt Charity and Shelter welcomes many of the measures taken to date, but goes on to say that they do not go far enough to adequately protect renters going forward. Without additional support, more renters will lose their homes in the coming months, with the risk of an increase in homelessness.
In order to sustain tenancies wherever possible, these organisations maintain that these two pledges are required in the forthcoming budget:
1. A targeted financial package to help renters pay off arrears built since lockdown measures started in March 2020. This will help to sustain existing tenancies and keep renters in their homes, whilst also ensuring rental debt does not prevent them from finding homes in the future.
2. A welfare system that provides renters with the security of knowing that they can afford their homes. The pandemic has shown how vital this is to providing security at a time of crisis. The Government increased Universal Credit and Housing Benefit because it recognised that the system was not doing enough to support people in the first place, yet it has chosen to freeze Housing Benefit rates again from April and is considering cutting Universal Credit at the same time. It cannot be right that these measures could be pulled away from renters during continued economic uncertainty.
The Chancellor is being urged to take action 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 months to come.
At Reside, we have worked with our tenants to keep levels of rent arrears very low, however we recognise that the end of the Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support schemes will present fresh challenges. Additional support for tenants will be needed to avoid a dramatic drop-off in income, for those who are currently reliant on the furlough scheme and self-employment support grants.