The number of families made homeless after being evicted to be left behind for rent could triple if the government didn’t stop a growing debt crisis, activists warn.
They ask the government to suspend evictions due to rental arrears resulting from the pandemic, an increase in the quantity and eligibility for housing benefits and a system to eliminate arrears not covered by the benefit system that would guarantee 80% of the owners’ income .
Recent polls conducted by the Foundation resolution found that 13% of renters said they were late with payments to their owners, compared to around 4% before the pandemic, according to data from the British housing survey.
But the Generation Rent campaign group said that if homelessness rates followed the same trend, 45,000 families could be homeless after being evicted from a private rental for rent arrears, compared to around 15,000 in 2019.
All court proceedings for evictions are frozen until August 24, but groups of renters have warned of an avalanche of evictions once the limit has expired.
While homeowners – including landlords – were able to take advantage of the mortgage deals negotiated by the government, tenants were responsible for renting during the coronavirus block.
While the government increased housing benefits to cover the cheapest 30% cost of ownership in a given area, the rate remains lower than before the imposition of austerity policies a decade ago when it covered 50% of the properties.
Numerous groups are also unable to benefit from this modest increase in support, including 432,000 private owner families led by non-British citizens without recourse to public funds and 224,000 families in full-time education. Even people with more than £ 16,000 in the bank are denied support for rents and will be forced to cut back on their savings.
Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “There is a rent debt crisis and renters are at risk of losing their homes. The government has already stepped in to stop businesses from going into crisis and mortgage holders from losing their homes. They have to provide the same protections to renters who have yet to lose their home or go bankrupt because of rent arrears.
“There are too many holes in the welfare system and our package of measures would ensure that no tenant faces indigence or becomes homeless because of Covid-19.
“But with the economy shrinking, the government cannot be expected to sustain the rent levels set when the economy was strong. That’s why we propose that owners are guaranteed only up to 80% of their rent. “
However, the National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA) claimed that Generation Rent’s analysis mistakenly speculated that the owners were doing nothing to support the tenants. He presented his own survey which suggested that 90% of tenants had been able to maintain rent payments despite the coronavirus crisis.
Chris Norris, political director of the NRLA, said: “Families who remain behind with their rent during the blockade should not be forced to fear needlessly the eviction. Rather, landlords and tenants should be encouraged to work together to find alternative solutions where possible.
“Our members have constantly told us during this crisis that they are doing everything they can to support tenants to stay in their homes. Although around 30% of homeowners are facing some level of financial difficulty, they have shown that maintaining good leases is in everyone’s interest.
“Having said that, we support calls to increase the finances available to tenants who are struggling to pay rent, especially when the furlough regime starts to calm down. This should include ensuring that benefits cover the cost of rents. “