Younger tenants ‘in serious danger’ of falling behind in rental payments

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has joined with homeless charities to call on the Government to implement a range of changes for young renters which it is claimed will be hardest hit by the phasing out of the coronavirus job retention scheme.

From August the scheme will require employers to pay national insurance and pension contributions whilst the Government’s subsidy, currently 80% of wages, will fall to 70% in September and 60% in October.

Research by the NRLA warns this scaling back could hit younger tenants on benefits hardest.

A survey among more than 2,000 tenants found 24% of private renters aged 16-24 and 27% of those aged 25-34 are reliant on the scheme.

The figures, produced by research consultancy Dynata, also highlight that young renters have taken the largest hit to their incomes of any age group.

Whilst 56% of 16-24 year olds and 54% of 25-34 year olds said that their incomes had not been affected as a result of Covid-19, this rises to 62% for 55-64 year olds, 76% for those aged 65-74 and 94% for those over the age of 74.

Despite this, 84% of 16-24 year olds and 87% of those aged 25-34 said that they had been able to pay their rents as usual, which the NRLA said shows how reliant they are on Government support to make ends meet.

As the furlough scheme is wound down, many young renters would struggle to afford their rents where they are reliant solely on benefits, the NRLA said.

The lobby group has partnered with homeless charities Crisis and Centrepoint to urge the Government to support renters by suspending the benefit cap, providing loans to Universal Credit claimants to cover the five-week waiting period to receive the first benefit payment and to alter the Shared Accommodation Rate, which currently limits the amount that those under the age of 35 can access in housing support to the cost of renting a room in a shared house.

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, said: “Young renters have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Many have relied on the furlough scheme to enable them to pay their rent. As this support reduces there is a serious danger that they will struggle to meet their payments.

“The vast majority of landlords approached for help by their tenants have responded positively and that will continue to be the case as they do all they can to sustain tenancies.

“But both tenants and landlords need the security of knowing rents can continue to be paid, just as with mortgages and rents for social housing.

“Plans need to be made to ensure that there will be adequate support in place to enable all tenants to continue to afford their housing costs.”

Seyi Obakin, chief executive of youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, said: “The number of young people contacting Centrepoint’s helpline has increased by almost 50% since before the pandemic and our supported accommodation is stretched, but we’ve yet to see clear leadership from ministers on how they soften the negative effects.

“That is why we urgently need to see more Government money to help with renting and living costs for those young people facing unemployment or reduced incomes and a better support package to help those newly out of work stay economically active. There are no simple solutions here, but business as usual is not good enough.

“We cannot leave young people to navigate this post-lockdown world alone.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, added: “We know that across the country thousands of young people are bracing themselves for the anxious months ahead as they struggle to pay high rents on reduced hours and low wages.

“This is set to become all the worse when the eviction ban comes to an end next month.

“It’s crucial that we now focus our attention on ensuring that thousands of renters get the help they need to stop them from being swept into homelessness.

“That’s why we’re urging the Government to permanently invest in housing benefit and suspend the benefit cap, so that people can afford a safe and secure home.”

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