One in five tenants who have struggled to pay their rent during the pandemic have been told to leave their home, given a rent increase or threatened with eviction, according to a new survey from renting campaign group Generation Rent.
According to a survey of 1,064 private renters, the majority of those struggling with the cost of rent have also struggled to find a suitable place to move to. Fifty-nine percent of struggling tenants looking for a new home have difficulty finding an affordable place or a landlord who will accept them, according to the survey. Forty-nine percent of renters who responded said they had lost income since March.
These findings are particularly striking, as they come days before a “ban” on evictions is set to lift. During the pandemic, landlords were delayed from evicting tenants after Housing Secretary Robert Genrick introduced protection for tenants struggling to pay rent. However, this evictions hiatus is set to end on the 23rd of August, when courts will be inundated with thousands of delayed eviction hearings. With so many unable to obtain suitable accommodation while also struggling to pay rent, Generation Rent warns this could cause a spike in homelessness.
Even those who have been able to pay rent during the pandemic have faced evictions, according to the survey. One in eight private renters were facing eviction, despite having no problems paying their rent. One in six renters said this was due to the landlord selling the property, part of a large spike in housing sales thanks to a Stamp Duty holiday introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.
The survey also highlights the failures of the housing benefits system. Only 18 percent of renters who had applied for housing benefits since the beginning of March said they had been able to pay their rent in full. Fifty-nine percent of private renters on housing benefits before the pandemic said they were able to pay their full rent, pointing to a highly flawed welfare system that fails to provide enough money to live on.
Caitlin Wilkinson, policy manager at Generation Rent, told VICE News: “These figures show that renters are already being asked to leave their homes by their landlord due to the pandemic. Upfront costs, sky-high rents and a lack of suitable properties mean that many will be left with nowhere to go.”
“The government is failing renters – not only are they forcing people to move in an ongoing public health crisis, but they’ve failed to ensure the safety net covers people’s housing costs,” she continued. “The Scottish and Welsh Governments have already taken steps to extend protections, and only the English government is ploughing ahead with evictions next week. Generation Rent is calling on the government to urgently introduce new protections against evictions to ensure that renters who have lost income due to the pandemic do not become homeless this winter.”