Lettings body backs Labour call for private rents to have ‘benefit cover’
The new National Residential Landlords Association has backed calls from the Labour Mayor of London to ensure the benefits system covers the cost of private rents for those tenants adversely affected by Coronavirus.
The NRLA’s chief executive, Ben Beadle, says: “Recent polling has indicated that just two per cent of private tenants have had to stop paying rent due to the pandemic whilst 78 per cent have not had to make any changes to their living situation. This shows that the vast majority of tenancies are continuing as normal which we welcome.”
But he says that for those tenants who are struggling, by far the best solution is to ensure they are supported to prevent arrears building.
“We therefore welcome the Mayor’s calls to increase the Local Housing Allowance. In addition, we repeat our call on the government to scrap the five week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit immediately and ensure tenants can have the housing element of the credit paid directly to their landlord if they wish.
“This would provide tenants and landlords with the confidence that rents are covered and debts will not arise.”
London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has called on the government to introduce three specific measures during the pandemic to ‘protect’ private renters.
The first is to increase welfare support for renters, suspend the Benefit Cap, restore Local Housing Allowance rates to median market rents, and cover any shortfall in rental payments of private tenants unable to pay them due to COVID-19.
Secondly, Khan wants section 8 to be made discretionary, which would mean that once the temporary suspension of court proceedings for evictions is lifted in June, agents or landlords could not evict tenants with arrears built up during the pandemic.
Thirdly, Khan has repeated his demand for an end to what he refers to as “no fault” section 21 evictions.
“The government has failed to propose measures to ensure that the full rental costs of those affected by COVID-19 are covered. Instead, they are asking landlords and tenants to agree an ‘affordable repayment plan’ for any rental arrears that build up during the crisis. It is unrealistic to expect landlords and tenants to simply sort this out between themselves” says Khan.
“This could mean many tenants facing high rental debts which they cannot repay, leading to a spike in evictions once the temporary suspension of court processes is lifted.
“This will particularly impact Londoners on low incomes, who are already at a significant disadvantage in London’s rental market and are a greater risk of being exploited by rogue landlords and letting agents.”