Generation Rent has called on the government to create a COVID Rent Debt Fund to clear rent arrears for tenants and keep an estimated half-a-million private renters in their homes.
The campaign group – also known as the National Private Tenants Organisation – argues that government action has failed to address the £360m of rent arrears private renters in the UK now face.
Generation Rent is calling for the Chancellor to use the budget to clear rent arrears and provide £288m to allow landlords with struggling tenants to claim up to 80% of the rent due.
Generation Rent director Alicia Kennedy said: “The government’s measures to increase support through the benefits system have failed to prevent half-a-million households racking up rent arrears, which will be impossible to pay back even when the economy recovers.
“While most are not at immediate risk of eviction, they are still being forced to pay the price of the pandemic and face the prospect of homelessness, without further action.
The House of Lords is set to debate the government’s extension to the ‘Christmas truce’ on evictions, which precludes bailiffs from evicting tenants till 21 February – except in limited circumstances.
Labour’s Lord Kennedy and Liberal Democrat Baroness Grender have tabled ‘motions of regret’, which criticise the new regulations for reducing the arrears threshold – meaning tenants with more than six months’ arrears are still vulnerable to eviction – and highlight the financial challenges renters face.
August 2020 saw an increase of 36% more private renters relying on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to pay their rent than at the start of the year.
Generation Rent estimated that 538,000 private renter households in England were not receiving enough support through LHA to cover their rent.
In January, Citizens Advice estimated that half-a-million private renter households were in arrears by November, owing their landlords a total of £360m.
Under Generation Rent’s proposed COVID Rent Debt Fund, the government would clear arrears, keeping renters in their homes, while allowing landlords to apply for compensation up to 80% of the original monthly rent.
“To get these people back on their feet, we need Rishi Sunak to step in and clear these arrears with a COVID Rent Debt Fund,” said Kennedy.
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