We need a rent freeze to ease the cost of living crisis

Apr 29, 2022 2:06 PM

Renters struggling with rising energy bills should be protected from higher rents. We are calling for a ban on rent increases alongside six other proposals we believe will ease the crisis for renters nationwide - including a pause on evictions to stop tenants facing homelessness. 

On Tuesday Rishi Sunak reportedly told the Cabinet that home owners face increased mortgage payments of £1000 per year.

But renters are bearing the brunt of rising prices.

The Office for National Statistics revealed on Monday that 59% of renters were finding it difficult to pay energy bills in March, compared with 43% of mortgaged home owners.

Nearly half of renters responding to the ONS’s Opinion and Lifestyle Survey (47%) are already spending less on food and essentials, compared with a third of mortgaged home owners (31%) and one in four outright owners (24%).

While home owners could be hit by rising rates, renters have it worse. A third of renters (34%) reported that their rent had increased in the past six months, compared with 19% of mortgaged home owners. Six percent of renters are in arrears.

Renters are in a precarious position, with just 38% able to pay an unexpected bill of £850, compared with 61% of mortgaged home owners.

Renters’ prospects of buying their own home are dim: just 30% believe they will be able to save money in the next 12 months, compared with 44% of mortgaged home owners. And renters are more likely to be borrowing more money or using more credit than a year ago – 26% compared with 19% of mortgaged home owners.

These figures reveal a bleak truth - renters are most exposed to the cost of living crisis. This is why we are calling on the government to:

  1. Ban increases in rent for the duration of the cost of living crisis
  2. Suspend the use of Section 21 evictions, where the landlord does not need a reason to evict, and Section 8 Ground 8 evictions, where tenants in more than 2 months’ of rent arrears cannot challenge an eviction
  3. Unfreeze Local Housing Allowance so benefit claimants can pay the rent – rates are frozen at 2019-20 levels
  4. Restore Discretionary Housing Payment funding to 2020-21 levels, when £180m was available for renters struggling with housing costs
  5. Reinstate the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift
  6. Ban landlords from demanding multiple months’ rent up front – a tactic used to deny benefit claimants a home
  7. Increase funds to clear tenants’ rent arrears from the £65m provided in October 2021

Although interest rates are rising, home owners are able to minimise costs by remortgaging. Renters don’t have the same option: if your landlord thinks they can get a higher rent from a new tenant, there’s not much you can do. If you try to negotiate, your landlord can simply serve a Section 21 no-fault eviction notice.

With renters so vulnerable to rent hikes and incomes stagnant, this causes impossible choices between paying rent and putting food on the table. Without a suspension of evictions and a rent freeze, the cost of living crisis will lead to spiralling rent arrears and homelessness for thousands of families.

It is because of this cost of living crisis that we have started a petition with Emma, one of our supporters, who has seen how the cost of living has impacted her and her seven year old son's attempts to find a suitable home. Make sure to read Emma's story here and sign her petition.