Following months of NRLA campaigning, the Government has now agreed to ringfence £65 million to pay off Covid-related arrears. Funding will target tenants most in need with cash to cover arrears, expected to be paid directly to landlords. NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle explains more.
News that the Government has listened to the NLRA and set aside £65 million to pay off Covid-related arrears is excellent news for both landlords and tenants.
Since the start of the pandemic the NRLA has campaigned tirelessly for a comprehensive package of financial support for those struggling to cope with mounting arrears, as a result of Covid-19.
Making the announcement, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said it recognises the pandemic’s impact on low-income households in the private rented sector (PRS) and is grateful to landlords for their support during the Covid-19 crisis.
It confirmed that 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.
However, while it is great news that Ministers have listened to our calls, it is clear to us that £65m does not fully reflect the scale of the problem.
Our latest research shows rent debt has now 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 country’s economic recovery, we are asking the Chancellor to go further and commit more resources to tackle the issue.
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 also know that 82% of those who now owe money for unpaid rent were not in arrears at the start of the pandemic.
The Government has confirmed the money will be made available through the Homelessness Prevention Grant, which will be administered through local authorities’ existing mechanisms.
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 the Government saying payments are ‘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.
If you think your tenants may be eligible for support, encourage them to speak to their local council to learn more about how to claim.
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.
In addition to this, we will 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.
About the Author
Ben Beadle is chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), the UK’s largest trade body for landlords.
A landlord himself since the age of 20, Ben started out as property manager before working his way up through the ranks at Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).
He was then Operations Director at property management business Touchstone before overseeing the merger of the National Residential Landlords Association (NLA) and Residential Landlords Association (RLA) to create the new trade body earlier this year.
His key aims as head of the organisation are to strengthen the voice of landlords in Westminster and Cardiff, to improve the reputation of landlords in the media and to support members through information, training and accreditation.
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