The number of private renters in arrears in England has more than doubled during the pandemic, according to new government data.
The latest Household Resilience Study shows that in April-May, 7% of private renters were in arrears, up from 3% in 2019/20, amounting to more than 780,000 renters. Another 9% expect to fall behind with their rents over the next 12 months, despite private rents having fallen in real terms.
With more than a quarter (27%) of private renters having reported difficulties in meeting their heating costs in the same period, the National Residential Landlords Association has warned that with rising bills now adding to their burden, many renters will struggle to pay off Covid-related rent debts.
Chief executive Ben Beadle says that without a targeted package of support, many tenants run the risk of losing their homes needlessly. “The Chancellor needs to address this crisis,” he adds. “His continued failure to act signals to the private rented sector that the government simply does not care about the problem.”
Meanwhile, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has urged Housing Secretary Michael Gove to make ambitious investment in social housing a key part of his strategy to fix the housing crisis after it found that 956,000 families in England are paying rents they can’t afford in the private rented sector.
Both findings come as a Shelter poll reveals the pandemic’s adverse affect on private renters’ mental health: 39% say their housing problems or worries have left them feeling stressed and anxious, 22% say these made them physically sick and 21% report that the problems have negatively affected their performance at work. The charity’s YouGov poll finds the most common problems plaguing renters’ mental and physical health include damp and mould – which affects 26% of all renters – being unable to heat their home (26%), constantly struggling to pay rent (21%) and fear of eviction (19%).