9:00 AM, 6th January 2021, About 10 months ago
Half a million private renters in the UK are behind on their rent, according to Citizens Advice. This comes as the country enters another period of national lockdown, causing further economic hardship. Renters have already been badly affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic with one in three private renters losing income.
For the majority struggling with their rent, this is a new challenge – 58% of those behind on rent had no rent arrears in February 2020. For people already struggling with rent before the pandemic hit, their arrears have got worse for 40% of them. On average, people who have fallen behind on rent now owe £730, which would mean around £360 million is owed across the country.
The temporary ban on bailiffs enforcing evictions in Tiers 2, 3 and 4 ends on Monday (11 January) and Citizens Advice is warning that, without further help for renters, an avalanche of evictions could take place in the spring.
Apparently, a quarter of those the charity surveyed who have rent arrears have said they have been threatened with eviction, termination of their rental contract, or handed an eviction notice despite the current rules banning evictions
Citizens Advice is calling for:
A legal ban on bailiff action and pause on all possession proceedings during the national lockdown in England and in tiers 2 and above beyond 11 January
targeted financial support for people in England who’ve built up rent arrears. The government should consider a system of grants and government-backed loans – comparable to schemes in Scotland and Wales – to help people pay back their rent arrears sustainably and stay in their homes.
Alistair Cromwell, Acting Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“As coronavirus restrictions once again tighten for everyone, the government must not forget the struggles of private renters. They currently face the prospect of losing their home once the eviction ban ends next week and the debt they have built up is likely to cast a long shadow over their future.
“Half a million private renters remain behind on their rent, with the majority falling behind during the pandemic restrictions. Unlike people who own their homes, private tenants have had no structured way to defer payments but instead have had to try to keep up with their rent and bills as best they can in a time of great uncertainty and hardship.
“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.”
ICM Unlimited surveyed a representative sample of 6,004 adults living in the UK. The sample has been weighted to the profile of all adults aged 18+ in the UK and is weighted by age, gender, region, social grade, work status, and ethnicity. Fieldwork took place between 12 and 25 November.
1,305 of 6,003 people surveyed were private renters. 141(11%) private renters said they were currently behind on rent. The ONS estimates there are 4.5 million households in the UK private rented sector. We have equated this to 4.5 million private renters (although the average number of adults in a household is greater than 1, so there are likely to be more than 4.5 million private renters). 11% of 4.5 million is 495,000, and for reporting purposes we have rounded this to half a million.
We asked private renters that reported being behind on rent what the current value of their arrears was. Respondents could choose one of the following intervals (or ‘prefer not to say’ or ‘don’t know’): £1-£50, £51-£100, £101-£200, £201-£400, £401-£600, £601-£800, £801-£1000, £1001-£2000, £2001-£5000. We then used the midpoint of each interval to estimate the mean value of arrears: £728.87. Multiplying this figure by 495,000 gives a net figure £360,790,650.
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