Conservative MP Nigel Mills has suggested that the burden of shouldering spiralling rent debt should be shared three ways between tenants, landlords and the government.
A member of the Work and Pensions Committee, Mills (pictured main image, bottom right) believes tenants can’t be expected to clear their debts without help, which would end up with them being evicted, losing their deposit and struggling to get another tenancy. Instead, landlords could agree to waive a third of the arrears, tenants would pay back a third and the tax payer would pay a third.
“The government should step in and say it’s nobody’s fault,” says Mills. “Tenants will need to pay some of their debt, but in return a landlord could offer a new one-year lease so the tenancy can be sustained and the arrears could be cleared over a decent period, in return for a taxpayer contribution. Those proportions could be moved up or down but that seems to be a realistic model.”
He made the suggestion while taking part in an NRLA webinar on tackling Covid-related rent arrears along with Yvonne Fovargue, Labour chair of the All-Party Group for Debt and Personal Finance, and Chris Norris, policy director at the National Residential Landlords Association.
Government data shows that in England, since the start of lockdown measures last March, the proportion of private sector tenants in rent arrears has tripled.
Norris says that landlords are not asking the government to bail people out, but for enough support to let people help themselves. He adds: “If we can continue to work together towards that kind of targeted financial package and solution we all want to find, there’s an awful lot that can be done to work our way out of this.”
The NRLA will now submit a report based on the webinar to the Chancellor, the Housing Secretary and the Prime Minister’s Office.