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Call for households to receive help with bills

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Money Advice Trust says millions of households will struggle to pay bills this winter, and that people need help with rent, mortgages and council tax.

The debt charity spoke out in response to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement about a new Jobs Support Scheme, and further help for the self-employed.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, says: “Bold though these measures are, however, the reality remains that millions of households continue to face the immediate challenge of meeting day-to-day bills this winter. Equally bold action is needed now across a range of household costs, including on rent, mortgages and council tax to prevent difficult situations being made far worse by growing debt.

“On rent, this should include protections in the form of no-interest loans for tenants who have built up arrears as a result of the outbreak. Changes to the rules on how council tax is collected are also needed to prevent more households being pushed into financial difficulty as a result of outdated collection methods used by many councils.”

The Money Advice Trust suggests the government close the gaps in the mortgage safety net by reforming the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme, to help prevent a surge in mortgage possessions after payment holidays come to an end.

This could be done by reducing the 39-week wait for payments to 13 weeks, and increasing the £200,000 mortgage cap that was set 11 years ago and has not been updated since.

“We know that there are millions of people already in problem debt. The Chancellor’s focus on jobs is welcome – but he needs to finish the job by supporting people struggling with costs through the difficult winter ahead,” says Elson.

The National Residential Landlords Association is also calling for more help for tenants affected by the pandemic.

Chris Norris, NRLA policy director, says: “We welcome the government’s measures to subsidise wages. We warned that the end of the furlough scheme ran the risk of many households facing further difficulties in paying their rents. Today’s announcement is an important first step to prevent this.

“That said our research still shows that private landlords across England have faced rental loses of up to £437m as a result of Covid-19.

“It is vital that the government now follows the example set in Wales and Scotland and develops interest-free, government guaranteed hardship loans to help tenants pay off rent arrears built as a result of the pandemic.

“We cannot expect them, or landlords, the vast majority of whom are individuals without the means to absorb significant losses, to continue to struggle without support.”

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