Half a million private renter households are losing £53m a month because the benefits system is failing to cover their rent. That is the shocking finding from our latest report on the impact of coronavirus on private renters.
Between February and August the number of private renters claiming benefits increased by 36% - or 507,000 households.
Two in five private renters (42%) – 1.9m households – now rely on Universal Credit or Housing Benefit to pay their rent, but miserly benefit rates mean that 538,000 households can’t cover their rent.Read more
The coronavirus has had a devastating impact on families living in private rented homes. Over half are now reliant on benefits to pay the rent – including 1.82 million children. That’s an increase of 23% since February.
Yet, one in five families renting from a private landlord currently receive less in benefits than they need to pay their rent, our research has found. This leaves 378,000 families in England with a shortfall. More disturbingly, this figure includes 750,000 children living in households with this shortfall.Read more
More than 340,000 private renters in Great Britain work in sectors at risk of lay-offs when the furlough scheme ends. This will add to the numbers of people who cannot cover their rent because housing benefit levels are inadequate, and are at risk of arrears and eviction.
We are calling on the government to raise Local Housing Allowance to cover the median rent so that families do not get into debt and to set up a fund to clear the debts of renters who have already got into serious arrears by compensating landlords up to 80% of the rent owed. We are also calling for fast-track abolition of Section 21 “no fault” evictions to prevent unnecessary hardship now that courts have reopened.Read more
The eviction moratorium ends on Sunday, and courts start hearing landlord possession cases again on Monday.
When it extended the ban for one final month, the government also said it would extend the notice period for most evictions from three months to six months (and did the following week). This will help a lot of people, but it doesn't help renters who were served notice up to 29 August and have not already moved out - an estimated 55,000 households.Read more
At the end of August, courts were poised to reopen for eviction cases. Tenants who had been served an eviction notice during lockdown would have been left with no more protection from losing their home.
We continued to push the government to make good on its promise to keep people in their homes. One renter, Nichola, who faces eviction with her two daughters, spoke out and started a petition that got nearly 40,000 signatures. At the eleventh hour, the government announced a one-month extension of the evictions ban until 20th September. It also extended the notice that landlords must now give tenants to six months, as of 29 August.
But the respite will be short-lived. Tenants who have been asked to leave are still facing huge uncertainty. And because so many people have lost income in since the pandemic started, prospects are grim.Read more
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.Read more
The Government must act now.
The pandemic affects us all - but private renters face particular problems. As the situation has escalated, renters have got in touch with us to express concern over self isolating safely in a shared house, and how they will pay their rent if they are forced to stay home, or lose their job. It's not just those who fall ill with coronavirus who are affected - many renters who are self-employed or on zero-hours contracts have already lost work, and many more are nervous about redundancy, unpaid leave or losing hours. Renters spend over 40% of their earnings on rent, and as a result, two thirds of renters have no savings.Read more
There’s been some good news this month for people facing discrimination in the private rental market – because of how they pay their rent, or because of who they are.
Buy-to-let mortgage conditions
First, Natwest announced that it would lift “all restrictions on landlords renting to tenants who are in receipt of housing benefits”.Read more
Back in October, we learned that Natwest had asked one of its buy-to-let customers to either evict her tenant, who was receiving housing benefit, or pay a draconian fee to switch her mortgage.
The bank’s terms and conditions prohibited customers from letting to tenants in receipt of housing benefit. Yet another example of a bank discriminating against low-income households and fuelling the “No DSS” culture. But this time, 62% of the bank is owned by the government, i.e. us.
The landlord has started a petition urging the government to stop this practice by high street banks, and it’s nearly at 5000 signatures.Read more