The landlords’ trade body has backed a call from MPs demanding a clear exit strategy at the end of the latest eviction ban.
The all-party Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee is critical of the long series of panicky last-minute eviction bans - accepting they are bad for landlords as well as tenants.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, welcomes the report and says of any future government roadmap: “At the heart of that plan needs to be action to tackle rent debts built as a result of the pandemic. The committee is right to express disappointment at the lack of a clear strategy from the government to deal with this pressing issue.
“We whole heartedly support the committee’s call for action to support tenants to repay rent arrears to be a top priority, including consideration of making payments direct to landlords. As the report notes, this would be the best way to sustain tenancies and help landlords receive income.”
The MPs’ report, out today, praises government efforts to get the homeless inside over the early months of the pandemic and over the winter, but saves much of its criticism for how the government has handled private tenants in particular.
Labour chair of the committee, Clive Betts, says: “The ongoing crisis of rent arrears in the private rented sector is deeply concerning. The economic consequences of the pandemic could be long-lasting and become even more severe.
“The ban on evictions has ensured that people remain in their homes for now, but the debt will continue to increase. Landlords, many of whom only own one or two properties, will also be struggling with a loss of income.
“The government will have to find a solution that is workable for tenants and fair for landlords. The gravity of the situation means it should be treated just the same as other sectors of the economy and society that have a clear roadmap out of lockdown.
“Helping tenants pay their rent arrears would come at a cost, but would ultimately prevent significant expenditure on homelessness assistance further down the line.”
The MPs say the problem of arrears has been ”a looming cliff edge” for the duration of the pandemic, and claims several options exist to show how financial help could be given to renters.
These include low-interest loans adopted in Scotland and Wales, and modified discretionary housing payments.
“The critical element will be timeliness and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should bring forward a proposal as soon as possible” the committee states.
“Helping tenants pay their rent arrears is the simplest and most straightforward way to avoid evictions and help landlords receive income. The committee received an estimate that such a rent arrears relief package could potentially cost between £200m and £300m; however given the number of potential evictions it could prevent it would likely save significant expenditure on homelessness assistance.”
The committee also calls for an improvement on housing delivery for properties for social rent, concluding: “The government must invest in a social housebuilding programme that delivers 90,000 social rented homes a year for the next decade.”
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