• Lawrence Talbot

Government urged to produce proper plan to deal with rent arrears

The cross-party Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has today (31.03.21) published a report urging Government action on rent arrears.

The report: Protecting the homeless and the private rented sector: MHCLG’s response to Covid-19 (HC 1329) – found, in summary, as follows:

“As well as supporting thousands of homeless people, the Government has also supported renters during the pandemic by banning evictions except in specific cases (such as anti-social behaviour). However, when this ban is eventually lifted in May, many renters who have been unable to pay their rent during the pandemic will be at risk of becoming homeless. Furthermore, the most recent regulations changed the definition of “substantial rent arrears”—the threshold for permitting repossession—from equivalent to at least nine months’ rent to six months’, and removed the requirement to disregard arrears accrued since 23 March 2020.

• We call on the Government to publish an exit plan for the private rented sector from national and local restrictions. 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.

“The problem of growing rent arrears not only puts some renters at risk of eviction and homelessness; it also affects landlords’ incomes. The Government will eventually have to come up with a policy response, because it cannot keep extending the evictions ban forever more.

• We call on the Government to deliver a specific financial package—we prefer discretionary housing payments—to support tenants to repay rent arrears caused by covid-19, in consultation with the Local Government Association and appropriate bodies representing renters and landlords. We received an estimate that this 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"

All very true but whether anything will be done is another matter...

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