Millions of Renters Found Lockdown Harder Because of Their Living Situation

A new report from housing charity Shelter shows the insecurity experienced by private renters during the pandemic.
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Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Twenty-five percent of private renters found that their living situation made lockdown harder, a new report from housing charity Shelter has found.

According to Shelter’s “Building Our Way Out” report, which looks at the impact of the pandemic on the UK’s renters, 2.1 million private tenants found that their housing circumstances made their experience of lockdown worse.

Private renters are twice more likely to have struggled than those living in social housing, 13 percent of whom found their homes made the lockdown harder to cope with.

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A YouGov poll carried out for the report, which surveyed 5,177 adults, showed that only 51 percent of private renters in the UK felt safe in their homes during the pandemic. Nineteen percent – equivalent to 1.6 million renters – are constantly struggling with their rent or already falling behind. More than a fifth of private renters fear being asked to leave their house in the next six months.

The survey also found that 35 percent of private renters live in poor conditions, equivalent to 3 million people living with electrical hazards, damp issues or pests in their homes. Twenty-nine percent said that lack of space indoors made the lockdown more difficult.

The report comes as thousands of renters face eviction from their homes in the middle of a pandemic, after the eviction hiatus introduced in March wasn’t extended. According to earlier research by Shelter, more than 300,000 renters have been forced into arrears since late March as a result of expensive rents and lost income.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Our homes are our first line of defence in this pandemic. But millions have spent months trapped in private rentals they do not trust to keep them safe. And right now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Shelter’s report calls for immediate action to be taken to help private renters across the country. The charity is demanding a £12.2 billion rescue package over the next two years in order to fund 50,000 social homes out of a total 145,00 new affordable homes, reversing the years of decline in social housebuilding under the Conservative government.

Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of campaign group Generation Rent, said: “While staying at home helps fight the coronavirus, renters have been at risk of being made ill by their home.”

“Renters are more likely to live in flats with little outdoor space, putting a strain on mental health, while private rented homes are more likely to be damp and mouldy, which can cause respiratory problems,” he continued. “The government owes renters a huge debt, but can pay it back by investing heavily in new social homes to raise standards and bring down rents.”