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Debt charity calls for help for renters

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Money Advice Trust is asking the Government to support tenants struggling financially due to coronavirus.

The charity welcomed the Government’s decision to extend the support available to mortgage holders, but says more should be done to help renters during the pandemic.

The Money Advice Trust, which runs National Debtline, says private renters are among the most exposed to financial difficulty in the wake of the outbreak.

In its recent ‘Closing the gaps’ report, the charity called on the Government to increase the rate of Local Housing Allowance to cover 50% of average market rents to help people meet their rent payments during the outbreak.

It also asked the Government to increase funding for Discretionary Housing Payments distributed by local authorities, which give extra help to people facing a rent shortfall.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, says: “Today’s announcement that lenders should continue to support mortgage holders, including offering a further three-month payment holiday where needed, is welcome, and will give further reassurance to homeowners whose finances have been impacted by Covid-19. It is essential that relief measures are withdrawn in a slow, cautious and co-ordinated way, and today’s news – along with the recent extension of the Job Retention Scheme – are encouraging signs that this is the approach the Government intends to take.

“More help for people with mortgages must be followed, however, by action to support private renters. People in private rented accommodation are among the most exposed to financial difficulty in the wake of the outbreak, and the Government should listen to calls to help people meet their rent payments by increasing the Local Housing Allowance rate to cover 50% of average market rents.

“We also need to see increased funding for Discretionary Housing Payments – as the Scottish Government has put in place for renters in Scotland just this week – and an extension to eviction protections in England and Wales beyond the end of June.”

The Financial Conduct Authority published proposals today that will allow borrowers to apply for a further three-month payment holiday.

UK banks have so far given payment holidays to more than 1.8m mortgage customers financially impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak. Landlords can also benefit from a mortgage payment holiday but there is currently no obligation to subsequently pass this on to tenants.

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