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Eviction surge ‘not likely’ as less than 5% of tenants in arrears

Written by: Samantha Partington
Less than 5% of private tenants have fallen into rent arrears during the pandemic, dispelling fears there will be an eviction surge in the coming months, an industry trade body claims.

In a survey of private tenants carried out by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), 87% of tenants said they had maintained their full rent payments throughout the pandemic.

A further 8% said they had agreed with their landlord to pay lower rent, take a payment holiday or made other arrangements, while 3% had built up arrears and were unable or unwilling to repay the debt.

A ban on evicting tenants was brought in at the start of the lockdown period to protect renters in financial difficulty. But from 24 August, the courts will begin to hear possession cases again.

Some 2% of those surveyed said they had been served with an eviction notice.

NRLA also reported that in a separate survey, 55% of landlords who have granted at least one tenant a deferred rent or rent free period plan to absorb the losses from their own savings.

These figures come ahead of new rules being introduced which will mean courts can adjourn possession cases where landlords have failed to adequately explain the impact that the pandemic might have had on their tenants before seeking possession.

The trade body has developed guidance along with with other groups to support landlords and tenants on reaching an agreement over how to deal with rent arrears to sustain tenancies wherever possible. NRLA is also calling for the government to introduce a tenant loan scheme to help pay off arrears built up due to the coronavirus.

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, said: “The vast majority of landlords and tenants are working together to sustain tenancies, and critically the overwhelming majority of tenants are paying rent as normal. Eviction is not, and need not be, an inevitable outcome where tenants have struggled to pay their rent due to Covid-19. Those who argue otherwise are stoking needless anxiety for tenants.”

‘Significant proportion of population struggling to get by’

Richard Lane, director of external affairs at debt charity StepChange, said: “Our research found an estimated 590,000 people have fallen into rent arrears and are facing housing insecurity due to the pandemic, with a further 3.8 million people borrowing to make ends meet.

“It’s not right that this turmoil should be compounded for anyone by the threat of eviction. Clearly there’s a significant proportion of the population struggling to get by. Rather than risk increased homelessness and housing insecurity through evictions, we echo the NRLA’s calls to bring in financial support for those struggling to meet housing costs, and for Local Housing Allowance to be raised so it covers a more significant proportion of market rents.”

Alicia Kennedy, firector of Generation Rent, said: “This research by the NRLA proves that thousands of renters have been hit hard by the economic shock of Covid-19. These numbers suggest at least 135,000 private renters are struggling to pay their rent, and nearly 100,000 have been served an eviction notice and are now terrified of losing their homes.

“Renters who have lost work and are being failed by the welfare state are not going to recoup that income. It is the government’s responsibility to support them, not fob them off with unsustainable loans that only benefit landlords. Repayments would only eat up their disposable income for years, and prolong the recession.

“The most vulnerable renters need a system of grants to get them out of this Covid-19 debt burden and keep a roof over their head.”

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