At least 569,000 private renters in England were behind on rent or at risk of arrears during the key Covid-impacted summer months, a government survey has found, a figure which is likely to have increased since then.

The Household Resilience Study, conducted in June and July to guage the affect of ‘wave 1’ of Covid, found that 7% of private renters were in rent arrears, up from 3% in 2019-20, with a further 9% very or fairly likely to fall behind with rent payments in the next three months, representing about 290,000 households.

Of those, half had fallen into arrears for the first time after COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, compared with 22% of social renters.

One in 20 private renters and 4% of social renters reported losing their job compared with 3% of owner occupiers, which contributed to the finding that 35% of renters’ household monthly income dropped by at least £100 due to COVID-19.

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Almost a fifth of those on furlough were in rent arrears, compared with 9% who weren’t, along with 23% of those on Universal Credit, compared with 7% of those not receiving it.

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent (pictured) says the figures show just how hard private renters have been hit by the pandemic.

She adds: “Government support has not been enough to stop rent arrears doubling, which is causing severe hardship and crushing the hopes and dreams of thousands.

“To put struggling renters back on their feet, the government must increase Local Housing Allowance to cover average rents and provide grants to clear the rent debts that have built up.”

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