MPs call for urgent rent debts action welcomedMake Text Bigger
Responding to a report published today by MPs on the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the private rented sector, Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said:
“We welcome today’s report which calls for a proper exit plan for the private rented sector from current restrictions.
“At the heart of that plan needs to be action to tackle rent debts built as a result of the pandemic. The Committee is right to express disappointment at the lack of a clear strategy from the Government to deal with this pressing issue.
“We wholeheartedly support the Committee’s call for action to support tenants to repay rent arrears to be a top priority, including consideration of making payments direct to landlords. As the report notes, this would be the best way to sustain tenancies and help landlords receive income.”
Please see below from the Select committee >> Click here
Protecting the private rented sector
18. The Government is in danger of breaking its pledge that no one should lose their home as a result of the pandemic. We have seen no satisfactory evidence for why the Government changed the definition of substantial rent arrears to permit tenants who have built up arrears only during the pandemic to be evicted. It is also worrying that this significant change was not debated in the House until two weeks after the Regulations came into force. (Paragraph 65)
19. We call on the Government to publish a proper exit plan for the private rented sector from national and local restrictions. The Government has tinkered regularly with the eviction framework, usually at the very last minute. Now the Government has published its roadmap for how to exit national restrictions, hopefully for the final time, it should set out how it intends for the sector to transition out of the pandemic. (Paragraph 66)
20. We are concerned by the lack of robust data available to the Government on the value of rent arrears and how it equates to months of arrears, and by the impact this lack of data may have on policy-making. (Paragraph 71)
21. The Government appears to lack a clear strategy to deal with rising rent arrears. We are very concerned that the Government is waiting until there is a clear crisis emerging before intervening, rather than heading off a growing rent arrears crisis by taking proactive action to protect people in this country. The Minister relied on arrears statistics from a survey in August to defend the Government’s response, even though he accepted that the economic circumstances would get worse over time for many households. Once arrears begin, they are likely to grow and will be exacerbated by rising unemployment throughout 2021 and as Government support schemes taper off. The Government will eventually have to come up with a policy response, because it cannot keep extending the evictions ban forever more. (Paragraph 85)
22. We call on the Government to deliver a specific financial package to support tenants to repay rent arrears caused by covid-19, having considered the examples in Scotland and Wales as well as many other international examples. This should be one of the Department’s top priorities. Several options have been proposed—we prefer modified discretionary housing payments—but what is important is that the Department delivers a package soon. Helping tenants pay their rent arrears, including consideration of paying direct to landlords, is the simplest and most straightforward way to avoid evictions and help landlords receive income. We received an estimate that such a rent arrears relief package will likely cost between £200 and £300 million. Given the number of potential evictions this would prevent, it would likely save the Exchequer a substantial amount in homelessness assistance. (Paragraph 86)
23. The Government should review its decision to freeze Local Housing Allowance rates by maintaining the 30th percentile in cash terms only, and instead keep rates indexed at the 30th percentile long-term. This will help households across England to afford their rent. (Paragraph 94)
24. We also call on the Government to temporarily boost funding to discretionary housing payments to meet the needs of the tens of thousands of households who are receiving no extra income from welfare increases due to the benefit cap. This will further protect households from falling into rent arrears because of the pandemic. (Paragraph 95)
25. The Government must introduce the Renters’ Reform Bill urgently. The Government does not want to introduce the Renters’ Reform Bill until the pandemic has finished, but this is at odds with the approach the Government has taken with NHS reforms. The Health Secretary told the House that the pandemic made the reforms “more not less urgent”. The same logic applies to the Renters’ Reform Bill and the urgent need to remove section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions. If the Government does not abolish section 21 before we come out of the pandemic, there will be serious consequences for renters. (Paragraph 98)
26. We reiterate our offer to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the Renters’ Reform Bill, should the Government choose to publish the Bill in draft. (Paragraph 99)
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