Relying on compassion isn’t working

The Government have asked landlords to show 'compassion' and work with tenants to accommodate their circumstances, but renters have told us that this is not happening.

The pandemic has underlined the importance of a safe, secure home, but for many renters this is out of reach. The Government introduced a 3 month ban on evictions in March, and raised LHA, but some renters have told us they’re still worried.

Last month, to better understand renters’ concerns, and the impact of the Government’s emergency measures, we asked over 1500 private and social renters how the crisis was affecting them.

The results suggest the majority are still worried. The Government have asked landlords to show ‘compassion’ and work with tenants to accommodate their circumstances, but renters have told us that this is not happening.

Key findings

  • 66% of private renters are worried about paying their rent over the next 6 months.
  • 15% are already behind with rent payments.
  • 2 in 5 renters who have lost income have asked their landlord for a lower rent. Just 7% of landlords offered a rent reduction that didn’t have to be paid back.
  • Over half (58%) of renters are worried about eviction, despite the Government’s ban.

Paying rent

We asked respondents if they were worried about their income and paying their rent, if they had asked their landlord for a rent reduction, and if they relied on benefits for some or all of their rent.

30% of respondents were very worried about paying rent, a further 32% were somewhat worried and 15% were already behind. Just 23% of respondents were unconcerned. Among the 291 respondents who had lost all their income, 46% were very worried about not being able to pay rent in the next six months and 38% already were behind on rent payments.

One renter told us: “my husband is self employed, and won’t hear of any help until June. He has already been affected by his lack of work… I am currently £550 short for this month’s rent and fear where next month’s rent will come from.”

Rent reductions

The Government has advised renters to speak to their landlords if they cannot pay rent, and encouraged landlords to work with tenants to agree a permanent reduction or a repayment plan.

Two in five renters who have lost income have have done so, and in just over half of cases the landlord has demanded full rent. In around a quarter of cases, the landlord has agreed to a lower rent which must be paid back. For just 7% of renters with reduced incomes who had asked, the landlord has agreed a lower rent that they do not need to pay back.

More than a third of renters who have lost income (37%) “have not asked and probably won’t ask” for a lower rent. A quarter are still thinking about doing so – experiences of their fellow renters suggest that they should keep their expectations low.


We asked respondents how worried they were about being evicted in the next 6 months (April -October 2020.) A quarter (25%) were very worried about eviction, a further third (33%) were somewhat worried with just 38% saying they were not at all worried. A small minority (2%) were already facing eviction, having been issued a notice prior to the ban, or issued a notice anyway.

While fear of eviction is constant for many private renters – 24% of those who are not worried about their ability to pay rent are worried about losing their home – 71% of those who are worried about paying rent are also worried about being evicted.

It appears that approaching your landlord adds to this fear, and some renters may believe the very act of doing so puts themselves at risk. Private renters with reduced incomes who had asked their landlord for a lower rent were much more likely to feel very worried about eviction (50%) compared to those who had not approached their landlord (30%).

One respondent told us: “I had received an eviction notice for the 18th of March. Then with the pandemic and the lock down my landlady allowed me to stay; however due to my complete loss of income I am having sleepless nights about what will happen once the lock down is lifted.”

Health and safety concerns

The majority of respondents (86%) felt confident that they and other members of their household were able to safely follow public health advice at home. However, around a third of respondents in HMOs (living with housemates they did not know well) reported not feeling confident that they could keep their home safe. Reasons for this included overcrowding, poor quality housing and living in shared accommodation with communal bathrooms and kitchens.

Aside from concerns about their physical health, several respondents reported that their housing situation was causing extreme stress and worry, damaging their mental health. As one respondent put it: “the situation has been vomit inducing, the stress is unreal.”

We need stronger protections to protect renters from debt, eviction and homelessness. Our results indicate that relying on goodwill is not working. With the majority of renters worried about eviction, and 15% already behind on rent, it’s clear the Government needs to step in and act now to avoid a debt and evictions crisis once the ban is lifted.

Generation Rent is calling for a ban on Section 21 evictions and evictions for rent arrears, support to pay the rent and a freeze on rents for 12 months. But we can’t do it without you – join the campaign and fight for renters’ rights throughout the pandemic and afterwards.

A summary of responses to the survey is available here.

If you’re worried about coronavirus and housing, we have gathered advice here.


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Individual Advice

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