The Housing, Communities and Local Government committee has warned that the government must move away from last minute extensions to bans on evicting tenants, and instead introduce a system of financial support for those tenants who have amassed “significant arrears”.
And it argued that helping tenants to pay those arrears ‒ at a cost of around £200-£300m ‒ would be the simplest and most straightforward way to support those tenants and ensure that landlords continued to receive an income.
However, MPs also pointed to the low-interest loans adopted in Scotland and Wales as a potential solution worth considering.
Falling through the gaps
According to the report from the committee of MPs, it has been too easy for tenants to fall through the gaps in support provided during the pandemic.
For example, some people who had no access to public funds due to their immigration status were not receiving the support they needed, while the report argued that the government’s poor data collection meant it did not have a good enough understanding of how many tenants were affected.
Clive Betts, chair of the committee, said the level of rent arrears was “deeply concerning”.
He continued: “The ban on evictions has ensured that people remain in their homes for now, but the debt will continue to increase. Landlords, many of whom only own one or two properties, will also be struggling with a loss of income.
“Helping tenants pay their rent arrears would come at a cost, but would ultimately prevent significant expenditure on homelessness assistance further down the line.”
Thousands at risk of eviction
Richard Lane, director of external affairs at the debt charity StepChange, emphasised that without targeted financial support renters face a crisis of “housing insecurity, homelessness and eviction”.
He added: “Around half a million private renters have fallen into arrears since March 2020 and many are now worried about being evicted from their home.
“With the expiry of the rental eviction suspension in just two months, now is the time to tackle the Covid rent debt crisis with decisive solutions.”
Previous research from StepChange has suggested that as many as 150,000 tenants are at risk of eviction due to debts built up as a result of the pandemic.