CIH calls on governments and landlords to act now to avoid a post-COVID spike in evictions
Government and many landlords have put in place temporary measures to help tenants keep their homes in the current crisis. Sustaining people’s incomes through the furlough scheme and calling a halt to evictions have created a temporary respite. But what happens when those temporary measures end?
The Chartered Institute of Housing has today published proposals aimed at avoiding a potentially disastrous spike in evictions once the current protections end.
Working with barrister Liz Davies, CIH has developed a detailed set of proposals to avoid a crisis that could leave thousands homeless and cost landlords and local authorities millions.
CIH director of policy James Prestwich said:
“For the eight million households who are tenants of private or social landlords, a key part of the hardship and suffering during the crisis has been the struggle to pay their rent and worrying if they will be able to keep their home. If our society and the economy are to recover from the crisis, it is vital that these fears are allayed quickly and thoroughly.
“We do not start from a good place. Local authorities’ and social landlords’ resources for dealing with homelessness were stretched before the epidemic and could be overwhelmed if there is a sudden growth in evictions due to rent arrears.”
The hard facts
• Of 5.6 million workers at high risk of losing their jobs because of the crisis, more than 1.2 million are private tenants.
• Around 2.6 million private tenants have already missed a rent payment during the crisis.
• Around a third of the ‘key workers’ who have kept services and supplies running earn less than £10 per hour. Many live in households dependent on two incomes to pay the rent, and where partners may have lost their jobs.
The furlough scheme helps to sustain incomes but has a shortfall of 20 per cent if not made good by employers. When the scheme ends people may lose their jobs, have lower earnings than before or have used up their savings. Protection against eviction currently ends in June. Even if it is extended, landlords are still able to start the eviction process if arrears accrue, resulting in a potentially massive number of eviction actions within a short period.
“The burden cannot simply be put onto landlords. That could lead to defaults on mortgages and enforced sales, which could deplete the sector just when that capacity is most needed. This needs government action too.”
What is CIH’s ‘post-Covid’ solution?
• Extend protection for tenants until evictions can take place safely.
• Prevent evictions solely arising from COVID-related arrears.
• End section 21 evictions.
• Make sure that payment plans for COVID-related arrears do not result in eviction provided the tenant agrees with and complies with the plan over a timescale of up to two years.
• Reform universal credit: end 5-week wait; temporarily suspend suspend the benefit cap and the two-child limit; increase LHA to 50th percentile of rents for a limited period; end ‘shared accommodation rate’ for under 35s.
• Increase emergency fund for discretionary housing payments and ensure they are more widely available to help with rent arrears outside scope of universal credit.
• Introduce an interest-free loan scheme to cover landlords’ loss of rental income and give landlords mortgage holidays on rented properties to pass relief on to tenants.
• Consider one-off payments to stabilise local authority and housing association finances where these have been hit by COVID-related arrears.
CIH chief executive Gavin Smart said:
“While the measures put in place by government and landlords are helping millions of people during this awful time, we have to think about what comes next. Simply ending all these measures without a plan to cope with the arrears built up through the outbreak risks pushing families into homelessness and landlords into bankruptcy, just at a time when a stable housing sector is needed to help rebuild our economy.
“Our proposals build on the work we have done with homelessness groups including Crisis and Shelter, as well as housing providers. They are practical and proportionate to the threat facing millions of people. We look forward to working with the government to make them part of our national post-COVID recovery plan.”