Coronavirus: 840,000 Brits have fallen behind on rent since crisis began

Saleha Riaz
·2-min read
Research shows rent debts are increasing 'to the point where there is no hope of many being able to afford to pay them back.' Photo: Getty Images
Research shows rent debts are increasing 'to the point where there is no hope of many being able to afford to pay them back.' Photo: Getty Images

There are an estimated 840,000 private tenants who have built rent arrears since lockdown measures began, a new report by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) revealed. The organisation is renewing its call for an urgent financial package to help tenants pay off these debts.

NLRA research shows that these debts are increasing "to the point where there is no hope of many being able to afford to pay them back."

"The outcome will be that most will have to leave their homes as emergency measures taper down from June," it warned.

Earlier, the government had announced that regulations restricting repossessions will be extended until 31 May before being gradually wound down.

Ben Beadle, NLRA's CEO, said "ministers need to ensure the tenants have the financial means to pay off rent debts built as a result of the pandemic. Without this they will have to accept the inevitable consequence of rising homelessness and damaged credit scores.”

The association said landlords are being impacted too. Most have been working with struggling tenants to help keep them in their homes but 60% have lost rental income as a result of the pandemic.

Of these, 39% said the losses were continuing to increase.

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Those who are making claims to repossess a property are seeing the process take them a year on average.

This is despite cases that courts are prioritising are those related to tenant anti-social behaviour and other criminal activity and where rent arrears were building before lockdown measures started.

The NRLA wants government-guaranteed, interest-free hardship loans to be made be available for tenants now in arrears who do not qualify for benefit support. For those who are getting benefits, it recommends further help in the form of grants.

It is asking courts to use video calls to ensure legitimate possession cases can be heard more swiftly. It also wants tenants to have access to legal advice and support much earlier in the process than at present.

Last month, a coalition of landlords, housing groups and charities warned that the government needs to do more to support renters and avoid them "being scarred" by debts, otherwise more will lose their homes in the coming months, with the risk of an increase in homelessness.

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