NRLA secures £65 million Covid fund
Following months of NRLA campaigning the Government has now agreed to ringfence funding to pay off Covid arrears. Grants will be targeted to support those tenants most in need, with cash to cover arrears paid directly to landlords. NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle explains more.
News that the Government has taken heed of our warnings and created a fund to pay off Covid-related arrears has come as music to our ears.
Here at the NRLA we have been campaigning tirelessly for a comprehensive package of financial support for those landlords and tenants struggling to cope with mounting arrears as a result of the pandemic.
The cash will be given to councils across England to support low-income earners in rent arrears – with payments expected to be made directly to landlords – something that was a key component of our demands.
Making the announcement, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said it recognises the impact the pandemic has had on low-income households in the private rented sector (PRS) and is grateful to landlords for their support during the Covid-19 crisis.
However, while it is great news that Ministers have listened to us and agree funding is needed to help keep tenants in their homes, £65 million does not fully reflect the scale of the problem.
Our latest research shows rent debt has hit £300 million, with the Government’s own data suggesting seven per cent of private sector tenants in England were in arrears in April-May 2021.
And with the Bank of England warning rent debts could pose a significant risk to the economic recovery, the Chancellor must go further.
The challenges of the last 18 months have been unprecedented, and the association knows many members have gone above and beyond to keep tenants in their homes during the pandemic.
We now urge local authorities to target this cash at those tenants struggling most.
The £65 million announcement was made ahead of the 2021 Budget on Wednesday which did not include any major changes that will affect landlords. To find out more check out the video on the Bulletin main page.
What do I need to do now?
The money will be made available through the Homelessness Prevention Grant, and administered through local authorities’ existing mechanisms.
The NRLA is urging landlords whose tenants may be eligible for payments to contact their local authorities immediately to find out how to claim.
According to Government payments will be made throughout the winter months and households at risk of eviction or homelessness are being advised to contact their council if they need financial help to pay off arrears.
Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, with payment ‘likely’ to be paid directly to the existing landlord, or a new landlord if the money is being used to support a household to find a new home.
The most important thing in the short term is to get the message out there to tenants that funding will be available.
The NRLA is in constant contact with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and will keep members updated as more information becomes available. We will also be working with local authorities across the country to help support delivery and ensure funds are deployed quickly and fairly.
We will also continue to campaign for further investment to support landlords and renters as recovery begins.
Keep your eyes out on our website, newsletter and social media channels for updates.