With a growing number of tenants facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, there is likely to be a sharp rise in the number of private tenants in rent arrears over the next 12 months, according to fresh analysis.
With forecasters warning the joblessness will soon rise to its highest level since 2016, LSE London and Trust for London estimate that there could be three times the existing number of private tenants in rent arrears in England this time next year.
The study found that with Covid-19 continuing to have a devastating impact on the UK economy, as many as 700,000 tenants and their landlords could be adversely affected by the crisis.
These arrears could be expected to lead to at least three times the number of formal evictions as before the crisis, resulting in around 50,000 over the coming year, although an early spike in formal evictions is unlikely, since government action on notice periods until March 2021 means that landlords will normally have to wait at least six months before issuing an eviction notice to regain possession.
Furthermore, the courts are putting off hearings for months – some into 2023 – meaning that evictions could be further postponed, while the analysis also points out that most arrears cases do not lead to formal legal processes and evictions.
Christine Whitehead, emeritus professor of housing economics at LSE, said: “We’re likely to see a slow burn of evictions that will go on at least into 2022. This will leave more and more tenants – and sometimes their landlords – facing months of insecurity, mental stress and hardship.”
Increases in evictions will mean that there will be far more households in need of local authority support, with perhaps 30,000 more households placed in temporary accommodation, according to the researchers behind the analysis.
Susie Dye, grants manager at Trust for London, commented: “The research brings into sharp relief what we already knew about the private rented sector, particularly in London but also across England.
“Tenants’ lack of security mean that those losing income, maybe for the first time due to Covid, are at risk of debt and losing their homes. It might not happen rapidly due to the welcome measures the government and local authorities have taken, but stress for those affected is real.
“We’d love to see the government’s promise to stop no fault evictions enacted in the Renters Rights Bill, benefits and local authority homelessness prevention being strengthened, so that the system is not overwhelmed.”