The government is failing to address the rent debt crisis, according to the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).
Research from the NRLA found that there are an estimated 840,000 private tenants who have built up rent arrears since lockdown measures began.
As it stands, there is no action possible against these tenants, which the NRLA has warned will result in debts increasing to the point where there is no hope of being able to afford to pay them back for many individuals.
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The NRLA has stated that the outcome of this will likely be that most will have to leave their homes as emergency measures taper down from June.
An estimated 60% of landlords have lost rental income as a result of the pandemic; of these, 39% have said the losses are continuing to increase.
It is taking an average of a year from a private landlord making a claim to repossess a property to it being enforced.
This is despite cases currently being considered by the courts being the most serious, including those related to tenant anti-social behaviour and other criminal activity, as well as where rent arrears were building before lockdown measures started last year.
With the government now working to phase out emergency restrictions in the sector, the NRLA has renewed its call for an urgent financial package to pay off rent debts built as a result of the pandemic.
It believes that government guaranteed, interest free hardship loans should be available for the majority of tenants now in arrears, but who do not qualify for benefit support, and that grants should be made available for those in receipt of benefits.
The NRLA has also called on the courts to make much better use of technology to ensure that legitimate possession cases can be heard more swiftly.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, said: “Whilst many landlords and tenants have worked well in responding to the challenges posed by the pandemic, we are now at a crunch point.
“As the country follows the roadmap out of lockdown, so too emergency measures in the rental market will need to be eased.
“Ministers need to ensure the tenants have the financial means to pay off rent debts built as a result of the pandemic.
“Without this they will have to accept the inevitable consequence of rising homelessness and damaged credit scores.”