With new figures showing more than half landlords have lost income as a result of Covid-19, we are renewing calls for a financial commitment from Government to help the sector.
New data from our own surveys of landlords and independent research of renters, show that both groups are suffering.
And with new lockdown restrictions now in force across the country, action is needed now, before the situation reaches crisis point – with a third of landlords already threatening to sell up or at least offload some properties.
We are united with other landlord, agent and tenants’ organisations in making the call to Government for support, with a joint statement issued this month.
We have said this before, but need to say it again; many, many landlords have gone above and beyond to sustain tenancies and keep tenants in their homes throughout the pandemic. But the situation is not sustainable.
The Government needs to realise the risk it is taking through its inertia on this issue.
By definition at the start of the crisis it was difficult to quantify the scale of the impact of coronavirus on tenants’ abilities to pay their rent.
Now, as we start to approach the one-year anniversary of the arrival of the virus on our shores, we have the data needed to provide compelling arguments to Government on the devastating consequences it has had on the sector and the people in it.
Interim findings from the NRLA’s latest members’ survey for quarter four of 2020 have found 56% of landlords had lost rental income as a result of the pandemic, with 12% having lost more than 20% of that income.
Almost a quarter of those losing rental income (22%) had lost more than £5,000 and more than a third (36%) say the losses are continuing to build.
This has happed at the same time as some landlords have been hit in the pocket in other ways – through being put on furlough or losing work, with 26% affected.
In all 20% of these have lost more than £5,000.
At the same time a survey of current tenants by research consultancy Dynata – commissioned by us here at the NRLA – shows more than 840,000 renters are currently in arrears.
Around 150,000 of these owe more than £1,000.
We know from the research that young people and the self-employed are disproportionately affected, with 14% of 18-24-year-olds and 10% of 25-34 years in rent debt, along with 17% of the unemployed.
And this is just the number of renters currently in arrears. Anecdotally we know many landlords – particularly in urban areas – have seen tenants flee their rentals without giving notice, some still owning rent.
This figure also does not cover losses through concessions offered to tenants by their landlords, such as rent -free periods or deferrals.
What is clear from all of this data is that we are currently facing a rent debt crisis.
While the government has now extended its repossessions ban, this is nothing more than a sticking plaster, and 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 – kicking the can down the road 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.
We are renewing our call for tangible support to help struggling renters 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 for those relying on them, rather than cutting this support as announced in the Spending Review.
The time for action is now.
The NRLA continues to campaign for a comprehensive package of financial support for landlords and tenants affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. To read more about the campaign and get involved, click here.