Pandemic leaves nearly half a million families behind on rent
According to a recent UK report, more than 750,000 families were behind on their housing payments last month, with 450,000 of that number being dragged into arrears as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The report by the Resolution Foundation, an independent think tank focused on improving the living standards of low-income people in the UK, explores the impact of the pandemic through the lens of housing costs.
Entitled Getting ahead on falling behind, the report finds that 750,000 families were behind on housing costs as of January 2020 – an increase of 450,000 on pre-pandemic levels.
The report also found that families struggling with housing costs were getting little support from landlords, with only 3% of private renting families successfully negotiating a lower rent over the last 10 months.
Similarly, one in 20 private renters in the UK said they had been refused rent reductions, even as their income was falling – with nearly one in four renters reporting a drop in earnings as a result of the crisis.
In Northern Ireland, there is no hard ban on evictions, but new rules now require landlords to give their tenants a minimum of 12 weeks’ notice to quit – or end their tenancy – before they can consider starting the eviction process.
Despite the Government’s attempts, the concern is that protections for renters don’t go far enough, and in some cases are actually creating further disparity between homeowners and private renters.
According to the Resolution Foundation, while mortgage holders have been afforded payment breaks that have offered them much-needed financial respite during the pandemic, renters asking for reductions have been rejected at ten times the rate of homeowners requesting payment breaks.
With the vaccine rollout going well, and the Government hopeful of gradually easing lockdown restrictions sooner rather than later, there is a school of thought that life getting closer to ‘normal’ will solve renters’ problems.
The Resolution Foundation worries that won’t be enough, given support schemes like the furlough scheme are set to be wrapped up: “Both benefit cuts and the end of furlough are penciled in for the spring, either of which will strain family incomes further,” it said.
“Likewise, unemployment looks set to rise, rather than fall, through 2021, potentially driving up arrears further still.”
You can read the Resolution Foundation’s full report here.
If you are struggling with rent arrears due to the pandemic and need some money advice, you can call Creditfix on 0808 253 2541. Our advisers are qualified debt experts who can offer you free advice and guidance, or help you explore a formal debt repayment plan.