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More than 800,000 private renters in England and Wales have built rent arrears since lockdown measures began, with average arrears between £251 ($333) and £500, new research revealed.
Market research agency Dynata surveyed 2,077 private renters in England and Wales in November and December this year for the National Residential Landlords Association (NLRA).
It found that 7% of private renters have built arrears due to COVID-19. That would amount to 840,000 tenants. Worryingly, 11% of private renters are now unemployed.
While the average arrears were between £251 and £500, 18% of those in arrears now have rent debts of more than £1,000. This would equate to over 150,000 renters.
Younger people are most likely to have been affected, with 14% of renters aged 18 to 24 and 10% of those aged 25 to 34 having built arrears since March.
The self-employed who rent were also most likely to be in arrears, with 17% saying they had developed rent debts since March.
Regionally, 11% of renters in the West Midlands had built arrears since March, the largest proportion of any region in England and Wales. This was followed by London where 9% of renters had accrued arrears.
The study also said those working in the construction, computer services and hospitality sectors were especially badly hit.
The NLRA hit out at the government’s support of renters and said more needs to be done.
“Ministers need to accept that simply banning repossessions does nothing to keep tenants in their homes long term. It just means larger debts piling up creating a bigger problem for tenants and also for landlords,” said Ben Beadle, CEO of the NLRA.
He urged the government “to provide an urgent financial package to get rent debts built due to the pandemic paid off.”
The NLRA’s suggestions include a tenant hardship loan that should be made available to enable tenants in arrears, but who are not in receipt of benefits, to pay off arrears built since lockdown measures began in March. These would be interest-free and government-guaranteed.
It said COVID-19 hardship funds administered by local authorities should be boosted to support those in receipt of benefits.
Meanwhile, a report from October showed that nearly one in eight private renters cannot meet their housing costs in full.
Independent British think tank The Resolution Foundation revealed that private and social renters are bearing the cost of redundancies during the coronavirus recession, warning that more are likely to fall behind with housing costs than people with a mortgage.
And UK average rents increased 2.9% year-on-year, but London rents fell yet again by 4.4% year-on-year, a report by HomeLet Rental Index revealed earlier this month.
The average rent in the UK is now £974 – up by 2.9% since November 2019, when it stood at £947, HomeLet found.
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