Government unveils £65m of support for tenants at risk of eviction

The government has given councils £65m of funding to support tenants in rent arrears.

It will be up to councils to decide how to spend the money, though the payment is 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 government said it is grateful to landlords for their support and the funding will mean more of them will be able to reach agreements with existing tenants.

Renters in risk of eviction or homelessness during the winter months have been advised to contact their local council for support.

Chris Norris, policy director for the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “We welcome the announcement of this funding and urge local authorities to target it at those tenants most struggling with Covid rent debts.

“It is great news that those households worst hit by Covid related arrears may be able to access financial support. However, £65m does not fully reflect the scale of the problem. NRLA analysis has put the figure of Covid rent debts at over £300m.

“With warnings that rent debts could pose a risk to the economic recovery and the government admitting that many landlords are highly vulnerable to arrears the Chancellor must go further.”

Some 7% of tenants in private rented accommodation were in arrears between April and May 2021.

The £65m has been added to the £310m Homelessness Prevention Grant already provided to councils this year.

Some £140m is also available through Discretionary Housing Payments, which can also be used to prevent evictions and help people find a new home.

Eddie Hughes MP, minister for rough sleeping and housing, said: “We have taken action throughout the pandemic to support the most vulnerable families, and it is vital we continue to provide support as we enter the winter months.

“This new funding will support families that are struggling and help to get them back on their feet as we begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Tenant charities and campaign groups have responded positively to the news.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “This news will be a huge relief to renters who face losing their homes as a result of this pandemic. The Covid crisis saw incomes plummet and debts spiral. People have struggled to keep their heads above water, with the protections from the eviction ban and furlough now ended, the threat of homelessness is very real.

“With winter approaching, the government is absolutely right to act to keep people safe in their homes and prevent a wave of evictions and homelessness. For those who can access it, this funding will be a lifeline.”

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “Hundreds of thousands of private renters who lost income during the pandemic have fallen into arrears and are still living with the dread that they will be made homeless.

“Generation Rent has long warned the government of the devastating effect that rent debt has on people’s lives, so we welcome this new funding and its recognition of how hard private renters have been hit in the past 18 months.

“It’s a significant step forward that will help keep people in their homes when they would otherwise have been evicted. But with rents rising and Universal Credit cut, we fear it won’t be enough to prevent families hitting crisis point.”

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