The NRLA argues that Sunak has turned his back on the support the sector needs, after a new report published by the organisation outlines the toll that Covid-19 has taken on the private rented sector.
It warns that without financial support to tackle covid-related rent arrears, the chancellor is forcing landlords into a corner. They either have to accept continuing to receive no income or resort to repossessing their property with all the consequences this course of action entails for tenants.
Moreover, the majority of landlords – 60% – feel their lettings business will be negatively affected as a result of the pandemic, with 34 per cent saying their rental income has been impacted by the events of the past year.
Despite more than 90% of landlords surveyed being individuals, and almost half renting out just one or two properties, among those who had offered at least one tenant a rent-free period or allowed rent to be deferred, 58% had absorbed the losses from their savings.
To help address the crisis, the NRLA argues that the government should introduce new measures to bring housing benefit support back into line with market rents.
Government data reveals that across the UK, in February, 55 of private rented households in receipt of Universal Credit which included housing cost support had a gap between that and the rents they paid.
The average shortfall was £100 a month. Despite this, the chancellor froze local housing allowance rates in cash terms from April this year, a decision the Institute for Fiscal Studies branded “arbitrary and unfair”.
The NRLA is now calling for the local housing allowance to return, at the very least, to covering the bottom 30% of market rents in any given area, and preferably increased so that it covers average rents.
For the majority of tenants now in arrears but ineligible for benefit support, the NRLA is calling for a hardship loan scheme to help tenants pay off rent arrears built since lockdown measures started last March.
These, the NRLA argues, should be government guaranteed, interest-free and repayable as the tenants’ incomes recover following the pandemic. The measure has the support of organisations such as the debt charities, StepChange and the Money Advice Trust, and Shelter.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “The chancellor has clearly decided on a strategy of making landlords the scapegoats for a crisis of his own making.
“For less than the cost of the ‘Eat Out to Help Out Scheme’ he could provide landlords and tenants with the financial support they need to keep tenants in their homes and prevent damage to credit scores.
“Landlords want to sustain tenancies wherever possible, but without the support so many desperately need, the Chancellor will need to accept the tragic costs of his failure to act.”