Coronavirus: Renters need financial help, campaigners warn


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The government is being urged to provide emergency financial help to tenants in England who have fallen into arrears due to coronavirus.

Housing charities and groups representing landlords and letting agents are calling for loans and grants for those struggling to pay rent.

New research on behalf of Shelter suggests 322,000 people have fallen behind since the outbreak in March.

The government said it had taken “unprecedented action” to help renters.

Six organisations – including Shelter, Crisis and Citizens Advice – have joined forces to call for short-term financial aid for renters.

The groups say £270m is needed to help tenants keep their homes and assist landlords who rely on rental income for their livelihoods.

They are proposing grants for renters already claiming government benefits, which would be distributed by local authorities.

And they say interest free loans should be made available for tenants who can afford to pay them back over time.

‘Punched into debt’

The survey carried out for Shelter by YouGov showed 4% of private renters in England have now fallen behind in their rent.

And the charity’s chief executive, Polly Neate, said the organisation had been “deluged” with calls from worried families “punched unexpectedly into debt”.

She added: “We simply cannot afford to lurch into another devastating homelessness crisis now that will ruin countless lives and undermine the country’s economic recovery.”

Her call is echoed by others, including the National Residential Landlords Association, ARLA Propertymark – which represents letting agents – and the campaign group Generation Rent.

Chris Norris, policy director for the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “The vast majority of landlords and tenants have been able to reach agreements [on arrears].”

But, he added, it had “proved difficult” in some cases.

“A financial package, such as that we propose today, would greatly assist tenants and landlords to achieve what we all want, namely to sustain tenancies,” he said.

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Around 4% of renters in England have gone into arrears since the outbreak

The government has extended a ban on evictions in England and Wales until 20 September after calls from charities and opposition parties.

It also introduced the requirement for landlords to give six months’ notice to tenants they wish to evict.

A spokesman for the government said it had taken “unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic by banning evictions, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries”.

He also said the changes made to evictions would help with “supporting renters over winter”, along with additional funding to the welfare system and local authorities.

But housing charities and opposition parties at Westminster have said further action is needed to prevent a “homelessness crisis”.

The Welsh government has already launched a loan programme for tenants with rent arrears due to coronavirus.

The £8m Tenant Saver Loan Scheme is for private sector tenants who are not on benefits.



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