The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is urging the Government to protect London’s three million private renters both during and after the Coronavirus pandemic by introducing three key policies to shield those affected by Covid19 from eviction.
Almost a third of Londoners rent privately – more than own a home with a mortgage – and COVID-19 has underlined the precariousness of their situation. Many are on lower incomes, have little or no savings and may have had to reduce or stop work due to the pandemic. This means that many households may be in a position where they cannot afford to pay their rent in the coming months.
The Government has announced some measures to support renters (see notes). However, these will not be enough to prevent many households falling into financial hardship over the coming months and beyond.
Therefore, the Mayor is calling on the Government to urgently implement ‘Triple Lock’ protection for renters:
- Immediately increase welfare support for renters, suspend the Benefit Cap, restore Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to median market rents, and cover any shortfall in rental payments of private tenants unable to pay them due to COVID-19 – including those with no recourse to public funds. This could be achieved by setting aside LHA rates for those who are affected by COVID-19.
- Once the temporary suspension of court proceedings is lifted in June, prevent private landlords from evicting tenants who have accrued arrears as a result of COVID-19. This could be achieved by making section 8 (the arrears ground for eviction) discretionary in court proceedings.
- Scrap so-called ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions. This would prevent landlords evicting tenants affected by COVID-19 using this route as an alternative to the section 8 method.
These measures would protect renters by giving them security of tenure for the duration of the crisis and would protect public health during the pandemic by making it easier for non-essential workers to decide to stay at home rather than going out to work in order to pay their rent. This is particularly important for people on zero-hours contracts or who are self-employed, for whom little up-front financial support is available compared to employees of companies.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said, “For too long, renters in the capital and across the country have been denied the security they need in the place they call home. The current crisis has brought these issues into stark relief.
“With millions of low paid renters in London now facing increased financial uncertainty we face a ticking timebomb of debt, arrears and widespread evictions once the suspension in court proceedings is lifted.
“The Government must urgently put in place measures that will prevent private landlords from evicting tenants who go into arrears as a result of COVID-19.
“Failing to bring in more support for renters will not only result in widespread financial hardship, but risks increasing the public health crisis, as renters may feel forced to return to work too soon with increasing debt and arrears hanging over their heads.”
The Government has failed to propose measures to ensure that the full rental costs of those affected by COVID-19 are covered. Instead, they are asking landlords and tenants to agree an ‘affordable repayment plan’ for any rental arrears that build up during the crisis. It is unrealistic to expect landlords and tenants to simply sort this out between themselves. This could mean many tenants facing high rental debts which they cannot repay, leading to a spike in evictions once the temporary suspension of court processes is lifted.
This will particularly impact Londoners on low incomes, who are already at a significant disadvantage in London’s rental market and are a greater risk of being exploited by rogue landlords and letting agents.
If the Government were to introduce the ‘Triple Lock’ in the short term, they would then be in an excellent position after the pandemic to implement the measures set out in the Mayor’s London Model of tenure reform. These would improve the lives of the capital’s private renters for decades to come by improving property standards, reforming security of tenure and tackling the affordability crisis through rent control.
Caitlin Wilkinson, Policy Manager at Generation Rent said, “Our homes are central to our fight against the coronavirus, but for many Londoners a secure home is simply out of reach. London renters are facing huge shortfalls between their benefits and their housing costs, pushing them to choose between rent and essentials such as food.
“Many simply aren’t able to pay the rent, and will be at risk of eviction and homelessness from June. The Government needs to step in and ensure housing benefit covers the rent, through removing benefit caps and increasing LHA. We know there will always be some people who can’t claim benefits, which is why the added layer of protection from eviction is so important. No one should face eviction, debt and homelessness in the midst of a pandemic.”