Over 800,000 private renters in England and Wales have built rent arrears since lockdown measures began, according to research from the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).
A survey of tenants for the NRLA by the research consultancy, Dynata, suggests that 7% of private renters have built arrears due to COVID. Applied across the sector that would amount to 840,000 tenants.
Whilst the average arrears were between £251 and £500, the survey finds that of those in arrears, 18% now have rent debts of more than £1,000. This would equate to over 150,000 renters.
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The survey finds that 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.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “Our research highlights in stark terms the rent debt crisis now engulfing the rental market.
“Whilst the vast majority of landlords have done everything possible to support tenants affected due to COVID-19, expecting them to muddle through without further support is hurting tenants as well as landlords.
“Ministers need to accept that simply banning repossessions does nothing to keep tenants in their homes long term. In fact, it will achieve the complete opposite as in kicking the can down the road it just means larger debts piling up creating a bigger problem for tenants and also for landlords. To sustain tenancies the Government needs to provide an urgent financial package to get rent debts built due to the pandemic paid off.”
To keep tenants in their homes, the NRLA is renewing its call for a financial package to help struggling renters to pay off arrears built since lockdown measures began.
This should include a mixture of government guaranteed, interest free, hardship loans and a boost to benefits rather than cutting this support as announced in the Spending Review.