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Tenants with Covid rent debts see arrears increase

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Written by: Emma Lunn
08/12/2021
The average rent debts still owed by tenants as a result of the pandemic have increased by 41% since May, according to the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).

A survey of more than 2,000 private renters in England and Wales by research consultancy Dynata for the NRLA found that average Covid-related rent arrears owed by affected tenants had increased to £1,270, up from £900 in May.

Whilst the proportion of tenants who had built arrears since March last year that still needed to be paid off had almost halved to 3.7% (from 7% in May) this still amounts to more than 430,000 private renters.

The survey found also that more than half (57%) of those with outstanding Covid related rent arrears were not in receipt of Universal Credit, making them ineligible for Discretionary Housing Payments.

More broadly, almost 59% of private renters in receipt of Universal Credit said that the decision to cut payments by £20 a week would make it more difficult for them to cover the cost of their rents.

The government has made funding available for councils in England to help vulnerable renters affected by the pandemic. The NRLA is calling on local authorities to ensure this is focused on those unable to access emergency housing benefit support.

For those in receipt of Universal Credit, the NRLA is calling on the government to reverse its damaging decision to freeze the housing cost support element.

Ben Beadle, NRLA chief executive, said: “The NRLA is concerned that tenants with outstanding Covid related rent debts are seeing these arrears increase. Whilst landlords have done all they can to support affected tenants, they simply cannot afford for this situation to continue indefinitely.

“With the government having made funding available for affected tenants it is now vital that councils get this to those affected renters as swiftly as possible. In doing so they should prioritise those not eligible for emergency housing benefit support. This course of action is the best way to sustain tenancies and keep people in their homes.”

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