There never was eviction crisis looming, insists lettings group

A lettings sector group says there was never any eviction crisis looming for private tenants, contrary to a slew of recent claims.

New independent polling – conducted before the eviction ban was extended over the weekend – shows almost all tenants have been able to pay their rent as usual during the pandemic.

In the survey of over 2,000 tenants across England and Wales, 90 per cent said that they had paid their rent as usual since the coronavirus crisis began.

Most, 84 per cent, had not needed to ask their landlord for any support. Of those that did ask, three quarters received a positive response.

According to the National Residential Landlords Association, which commissioned the poll by Dynata, this shows that concerns over a spike in evictions are unfounded.

Prior to the ban being extended, the NRLA was working with the government to develop a pre-action protocol for the private rented sector.

This would ensure that landlords and tenants had done everything possible to reach an agreement on rent arrears before any repossession can take place.

When hearings do resume, the NRLA is calling for priority to be given to cases involving debt built prior to the lockdown, where tenants are engaged in anti-social behaviour and those who might be committing domestic abuse.

Commenting on the results of the survey Ben Beadle, the chief executive of the NRLA, says: “This survey reflects what we know from our members, which is that nearly all are seeking to support tenants to stay in their homes. Given that some 30 per cent of landlords have reported facing some level of financial hardship, they will do all they can to sustain tenancies.

“We understand the concerns of tenants who have built up rent arrears as a result of losing income, but even where a landlord seeks to repossesses a property, our legal advice is that a pre-action protocol would provide protection from any landlord seeking to circumvent it and allow Judges to adjourn cases where it has not been followed. To argue that there will be a substantial spike in evictions is scaremongering.”

Although the NRLA has welcomed support for the sector from the government it says further help should be given to ensure tenants have the cash they need to pay their rent.

This includes further extending the Local Housing Allowance so that it fully covers rents, ending the five week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit or converting the existing advance to a grant, and enabling the housing element of Universal Credit to be paid directly to the landlord giving tenants certainty about rent payments.

The association is also asking the government to look at a hardship loan scheme for tenants where existing housing support payments are insufficient to meet their costs during the crisis, but who expect their finances to recover in the short to medium term.

The loans, similar to a scheme developed in Spain, would be paid directly to the landlord and could be re-paid by the tenant within a fixed number of years.

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