MPs have added their voices to a growing chorus calling for urgent action by the government on the looming tenant rent arrears and debt crisis due to hit the sector as the pandemic eases.
The parliamentary Housing, Communities and Local Government Select committee, which scrutinises the ministry of housing, has today issued a report into the private rented sector and how it has been impacted by Covid.
The report calls on the government to publish an ‘exit plan’ as a matter of urgency for the private rented sector in the same way it has published a roadmap for the easing of Covid.
And crucially, it also calls on the government to provide a specific financial package – the government has so far relied on its non-specific support via Universal Credit to claim it is supporting the sector – to help tenants repay rent arrears caused by Covid.
“Helping tenants pay their rent arrears is the simplest and most straightforward way to avoid evictions and help landlords receive income,” it says.
The MPs say a scheme of specific discretionary housing payments or interest-free government loans would be its preferred methods.
“We received an estimate that this package will likely cost between £200 and £300 million,” the MPs say.
“Given the number of potential evictions this would prevent, it would likely save the Exchequer a substantial amount in homelessness assistance.”
They also warn that the government has been ignoring the looming ‘cliff edge’ of rent arrears as the pandemic has dragged on.
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, says: “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.”