Young and self-employed renters are most likely to have built up rent arrears during the pandemic, according to a new tenant survey by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).

It found that at least 800,000 private renters in England and Wales have got behind with their rent payments and has repeated calls for the government to step in and offer them interest-free hardship loans and a benefits boost.

The NRLA survey of 2,077 private renters reveals that 7% now have Covid-related arrears which, applied across the sector, would amount to 840,000 tenants.

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 up arrears since March.

Rent debts

Self-employed renters were also most likely to be in arrears, with 17% saying they had developed rent debts, while those working in construction, IT and hospitality were worst affected.

Regionally, 11% of renters in the West Midlands have built up arrears since March, the largest proportion of any region in England and Wales, followed by London where 9% of tenants are behind on their rent. While the average rent debt is between £251 and £500, the survey finds that of those in arrears, 18% now owe more than £1,000.

It also found that although 4% of tenants had been handed a legal notice, these were not all necessarily due to rent arrears.


NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle (pictured) says simply banning repossessions does nothing to keep tenants in their homes long term. He adds: “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.”

Read more: How to deal with rent arrears.


  1. One advantage of HMOs is the ability to spot rent arrears early on.
    I can spot a potential problem when an HMO tenant owes me £20, rather than a family renting a whole house, where arrears can be £1000 before you know it.
    I often collect my rent daily, rather than weekly.


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