Private rent debts double during pandemic, new figures reveal
The proportion of private renters in arrears in England has more than doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic according to new UK Government data.
The latest Household Resilience Study reveals that in April-May 2021, 7% of private renters were in arrears, up from 3% in 2019/20. This amounts to over 780,000 renters.
An extra 9% indicated that they expected to fall behind with their rents over the next 12 months. This comes despite private rents having fallen in real terms.
With over a quarter (27%) of private renters having reported difficulties in meeting their heating costs in the same period, the National Residential Landlords Association is warning that with rising bills now adding to their burden, many renters will struggle to pay off COVID related rent debts.
The figures have also revealed that over 190,000 low-income renters on Universal Credit in England are at least two or more months behind on their rent – a rise of 70% in just half a year.
The new figures come exactly a week after the Government imposed a cut to Universal Credit which has seen households lose an average of £87 per month or the equivalent of £1,040 over a year.
With many people already struggling to keep their head above water amongst escalating energy prices, higher food costs and inflation expected to go above 4% by the end of the year, these figures heighten fears that struggling households will be pushed further into debt and homelessness.
Responding to the figures, Jon Sparkes, Crisis chief executive, said: “These figures are far worse than we feared and must act as a wake-up call to Government to act now if we are to pull hundreds of thousands of renters back from the brink of homelessness.
“The cold reality of the Universal Credit cut is forcing people into impossible decisions about whether to turn on the heating, put food on the table for their children or pay the rent. How do we expect to level up the country when families can’t even afford the basic necessities?
“There is still time to fix this. It’s vital that the Government use the upcoming Spending Review to reverse this decision and reinstate the £20 lifeline so we can prevent struggling families from losing their homes this winter. Anything short of this could be catastrophic.”
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, added: “Landlords are being put in a difficult position. They either try to shoulder rent debts they cannot afford or seek to repossess properties as a final resort.
“Without a targeted package of support to pay off COVID rent debts, many tenants run the risk of losing their homes needlessly. They also face the possibility that their credit scores will be damaged, making it more difficult to access new housing in future.
“The Chancellor needs to address this crisis. His continued failure to act signals to the private rented sector that the Government simply does not care about the problem.”