At the eleventh hour, late on a Friday afternoon, the Government finally decided to stop ploughing ahead with reopening eviction cases in the courts on 24 August.
This news came as a relief to the many thousands of renters struggling to pay their rent due to the economic shock of Covid-19. However, a stay on evictions keep renters safe for now but it is just a sticking plaster. It is time the Government dealt with root cause and took action to end the rent debt crisis.
Even before the pandemic hit, two million households in the private rented sector were struggling to pay their rent – paying a staggering 40% of their income to private landlords on average.
Already stretched thin and with no savings to fall back on, private renters now find themselves without work or at risk of losing their job.
Having to rely on the welfare system, many for the first time, renters wait anxiously for money to arrive and are devasted when the housing allowance, even with the recent Government increase, nowhere near covers the rent they owe.
New research by Generation Rent found that just 12% of those who applied for benefits after lockdown have been able to cover their rent – meaning hundreds and thousands of renters have been forced to rely solely on their landlord’s goodwill.
With unemployment rising, the furlough scheme coming to an end, and an endless wait for an inadequate benefit payment, thousands of renters are at serious risk of losing their homes.
Renters like Elizabeth, Tim, Roy, Laura and Chrissie:
Elizabeth: ‘Our three-year contract is up. We informed our landlady we weren’t able to pay full due to cuts in our salaries due to Covid19. The landlady agreed – then the landlady gave us Section 21 eviction notice.’
Tim: ‘Covid 19 has meant that income has dried up. My landlord wouldn’t or hasn’t taken the three month mortgage payment holiday. I am 3+ months behind with my rent and frightened about receiving a Section 8 eviction notice from my landlord.’
Roy: ‘My landlord has been texting me once a month since this (pandemic) started telling me I’m going to be “out on my ear” if I don’t pay, trying to increase the rent while my income has halved and my savings are dwindling, I’m terrified for my children’s future.’
Laura: ‘I’ve been furloughed and the money hasn’t been coming in until the middle of the month so I’ve been unable to pay the rent on time. I haven’t slept I’ve been ill anxiety and depression levels have gone up.’
Chrissie: ‘We explained that we hadn’t been able to work for 3 months and we’ve rented for just under 30 years. The landlords agent said ‘well you know what to do, give the keys back if you can’t pay’. We’re not eligible for benefits as we own a retirement property abroad. We are both over 60.’
These stories break my heart. Sadly, Elizabeth, Tim, Roy, Laura and Chrissie are not alone. Their stories are just a snapshot of the renter experience Generation Rent hears every day.
Many have lived in their properties for years. They have children at local schools but now find themselves priced out of the area they call home. Some are behind with rent and others haven’t even been given a reason; their landlord has simply issued a ‘no fault’ eviction notice and asked them to leave.
Our research, carried out just a few weeks ago, has shown 1 in 5 private renters who has struggled to pay rent during the pandemic has already been told to move out, been given a rent increase or been threatened with eviction. Nearly half of struggling tenants were found to be already searching for a new home, with 59 per cent unable to find one they can afford or a landlord who will accept them – meaning homelessness will be the only option for renters as they find themselves with nowhere else to go.
Time is running out for renters.
In March, Robert Jenrick promised to keep renters hit by Covid-29 in their homes. He has to deliver on this promise. He has to put in place a permanent solution to alleviate the coronavirus rent debt crisis being faced by hundreds of thousands of renters.
With Parliament back from the summer recess, Generation Rent are more determined than ever to help renters saddled with rent debt.
That’s why we’re campaigning for an end to the rent debt crisis through lifting the benefit cap and increasing benefits to cover average rents, no rent increases until March 2021, and make grants available to cover the rent of the most financially vulnerable through our Coronavirus Home Retention Scheme.
We want to see an end to coronavirus evictions through emergency legislation to prevent ‘no fault’ evictions and evictions for rent arrears. This will ensure renters who have been hit by the pandemic do not lose their homes through no fault of their own.
And we want to see a permanent end to Section 21. Evictions for no reason were a leading cause of homelessness before the pandemic. Section 21 eviction notices are in frequent use and the pandemic has highlighted that the law is not fit for purpose. The Government has pledged to end ‘no fault’ evictions, and now is the time for it to honour this pledge.
Without a permanent solution to the rent debt crisis and evictions due to Covid-19 thousands of renters are at serious risk of losing their homes when the ban ends.
Generation Rent will be doing all it can to stop private renters tipping over the edge into homelessness. Homelessness destroys lives. Help us end the rent debt crisis – sign up at GenerationRent.org