Half a million renters are now in arrears
Half a million private tenants in the UK are behind on their rent, according to Citizens Advice.
While mortgage payers have been able to benefit from formal payment holidays, renters have been forced to negotiate month by month with their landlords.
The average amount owed is £730 and, worryingly, protections against eviction are set to expire this weekend.
One in four private renters in arrears have been threatened with eviction or cancellation of contract by their landlord, with an estimated total £360m now owed.
Citizens Advice is warning that, without further help for renters, ‘an avalanche of evictions could take place in the spring’.
It’s calling for a ban on bailiff action and pause on all possession proceedings during the national lockdown in England and targeted financial support for people in England who’ve built up rent arrears.
It also said the government should consider a system of grants and government-backed loans, like in Scotland and Wales, to help people pay back their rent arrears sustainably.
Hit hard by crisis
Renters have already been badly affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic with one in three private renters losing income.
The majority of those now struggling to pay rent had no problems before the pandemic – 58% of those behind on rent had no rent arrears in February 2020.
Citizens Advice case worker, Lauren Brown, said: “We’re seeing an increasing number of people come to us for help with rent arrears. This includes people who only six months ago had a well-paid job but were made redundant due to the pandemic and are finding it very difficult to find a job on a similar level.
“If the eviction ban ends, for some families this will mean going from having a home, to living out of a bag. They’ll have to start their lives all over again – all due to an unprecedented situation that was totally out of their control.”
Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, added: “Even though many landlords are trying their best to support their tenants, thousands of renters could face eviction in the coming months without further help.
“The government must act decisively to prevent evictions in areas subject to the highest coronavirus restrictions. And they should provide targeted support to help people escape the trap of rent arrears in the New Year.”