The furlough scheme has been extended for a month and while it’s being replaced eventually by a less generous scheme, there is worry from a landlord trade body that tenants need still more protection during the Covid winter ahead.
The National Residential Landlords Association says that according to one analysis, 300,000 renters could be at risk of losing their jobs as the scheme closes. Many more are likely to struggle as a result of facing a fall in their income due to the less generous Job Support Scheme.
Renters under the age of 35 will face the brunt of crisis as those who find themselves on benefits will only be able to claim for a room in a shared house.
Government figures show that as of August 31 some 57 per cent of those who were furloughed were under the age of 45.
In total, 38 per cent of those under the age of 45, and 46 per cent of those under 35, live in the private rented sector.
The NRLA says the majority of landlords have done everything possible to support renters affected but most cannot afford to face rent arrears building indefinitely.
Some 94 per cent of landlords let property out as an individual, 45 per cent rent out just one property and 44 per cent became a landlord to contribute to their pension.
Previous analysis by the NRLA suggests that total rental income lost by private landlords in England due to COVID-19 could be up to £437m.
Current rules mean landlords need to give six months’ notice to regain possession of a property in most cases. Given this, without further government assistance to help pay off rent arrears built due to the pandemic, many landlords will have no other option than to seek money judgements against tenants affected which would severely damage their credit scores.
The NRLA wants government to develop a dedicated financial package to support renters and landlords.
This should include interest free, government guaranteed hardship loans for those in work but struggling to pay rents. Similar schemes have been announced in Wales and Scotland.
For those in receipt of benefits the government should boost the amount available under emergency housing support funds available to local authorities, increase benefits to cover average rents and suspend the rule that limits benefits assistance for those under 35 to covering only the rent on a room in a shared house.
“With rates of COVID-19 rising, we need to do everything possible to sustain tenancies. The government needs urgently to step in and fund renters who are struggling as a result of the pandemic” says NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle.
“Expecting the rental market simply to muddle through without proper support is a failed strategy that has to end” he concludes.