Government research finds half a million private renters struggling

Dec 17, 2020 2:19 PM

Last month we estimated that 538,000 private renter households had a shortfall between their Local Housing Allowance and the rent they owed.

Now the government's own survey has backed that up - it found 569,000 private renter households were behind on rent or at risk of arrears this summer

The Ministry of Housing's Household Resilience Study, published today, has revealed the extent of the government's failings in supporting private renters through the pandemic.

The survey, carried out in June and July 2020, found that 7% of private renters - 279,000 households - were currently in rent arrears, up from 3% in 2019-20. A further 9% of private renters said they were very or fairly likely to fall behind with rent payments in the next three months - representing approximately 290,000 households.

Over a third (35%) of private renters reported that their household monthly income had decreased by at least £100 due to COVID-19. These economic setbacks also appear to have affected renters' long-term financial prospects. In 2019-20, 59% of private renters said that they expected to buy their own home at some point in the future. By June-July 2020, this dropped to 49%.

Moreover, those on furlough were more likely to be in rent arrears. Almost a fifth (17%) of those on furlough were in rent arrears, compared to one in ten (9%) who were not on furlough. Those on universal credit were also more likely to be in rent arrears than those not receiving it. Almost a quarter (23%) of those on universal credit were currently in rent arrears, compared to 7% of those not receiving it. These figures reveal the dramatic shortcomings of the government's financial support for private renters.

The report also found a dramatic deterioration in private renters' mental health. Between 2019-20 and June-July 2020, the proportion of private renters reporting that they felt lonely often or always more than doubled, from 5% to 12%. No such increases were observed among social renters or owner occupiers.

These new official figures show just how hard private renters have been hit by the pandemic. Government support has not been enough to stop rent arrears doubling, which is causing severe hardship and crushing the hopes and dreams of thousands.

To put struggling renters back on their feet, the government must increase Local Housing Allowance to cover average rents and provide grants to clear the rent debts that have built up.

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