Half a million tenants are in rent arrears, and protection against eviction is due to expire in England, Scotland and Wales this weekend.
There's also the new national lockdown in place, making this a very worrying trend.
According to a poll by Citizens Advice of 6,000 renters in mid-November, 58% of those behind on rent had no rent arrears in February 2020. On average, people who have fallen behind on rent now owe £730 each.
Of the tenants already struggling with rent payments before the Covid-19 outbreak, 40% have seen their rent arrears increase. One in four who had rent arrears have already been threatened with eviction, termination of their rental contract, or handed an eviction notice despite the current rules.
The temporary ban on bailiffs enforcing evictions in Tiers 2, 3 and 4 in England, Scotland and Wales ends on Monday 11 January and the charity is warning that, without further help for tenants, a significant number of evictions could take place in the spring.
In Northern Ireland, landlords must give their tenants at least 12 weeks’ notice of the date the tenant is supposed to leave their rented home. This longer notice period applies for notices given between 5 May 2020 and 31 March 2021.
Call for ban on bailiff action
The charity is calling for a legal ban on bailiff action and a pause on all possession proceedings during the national lockdown in England.
It would also like to see targeted financial help, such as grants and government-backed loans, for tenants in England who have built up rent arrears. This would match existing schemes in Scotland and Wales to help people repay rent arrears and stay in their homes.
Commenting on the findings, Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The government must act decisively to prevent evictions in areas subject to the highest coronavirus restrictions. And it should provide targeted support to help people escape the trap of rent arrears in the New Year.”
What can I do if I’m falling behind with my rent?
- Make a budget and list other debts to see how much rent you can pay.
- If you haven’t contacted your landlord, then do this right away. Suggest a payment plan to show them how you will gradually repay what you owe. They are not obliged to accept this, but some landlords are open to this.
- You could ask if there are DIY jobs you can do around your home that can be offset against rent.
Seek advice online or over the phone from a specialist service such as Shelter in England, Shelter Scotland (call 0808 800 444), Shelter Cymru for Wales (0345 075 5005) and Housing Rights in Northern Ireland (028 9024 5640). Or contact national charities such as Citizens Advice (0808 223 1133) or National Debtline (0808 808 4000)
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