We need a rent freeze to ease the cost of living crisis

Apr 29, 2022 2:06 PM

Renters struggling with rising energy bills should be protected from higher rents. We are calling for a ban on rent increases alongside six other proposals we believe will ease the crisis for renters nationwide - including a pause on evictions to stop tenants facing homelessness. 

On Tuesday Rishi Sunak reportedly told the Cabinet that home owners face increased mortgage payments of £1000 per year.

But renters are bearing the brunt of rising prices.

The Office for National Statistics revealed on Monday that 59% of renters were finding it difficult to pay energy bills in March, compared with 43% of mortgaged home owners.

Nearly half of renters responding to the ONS’s Opinion and Lifestyle Survey (47%) are already spending less on food and essentials, compared with a third of mortgaged home owners (31%) and one in four outright owners (24%).

While home owners could be hit by rising rates, renters have it worse. A third of renters (34%) reported that their rent had increased in the past six months, compared with 19% of mortgaged home owners. Six percent of renters are in arrears.

Renters are in a precarious position, with just 38% able to pay an unexpected bill of £850, compared with 61% of mortgaged home owners.

Renters’ prospects of buying their own home are dim: just 30% believe they will be able to save money in the next 12 months, compared with 44% of mortgaged home owners. And renters are more likely to be borrowing more money or using more credit than a year ago – 26% compared with 19% of mortgaged home owners.

These figures reveal a bleak truth - renters are most exposed to the cost of living crisis. This is why we are calling on the government to:

  1. Ban increases in rent for the duration of the cost of living crisis
  2. Suspend the use of Section 21 evictions, where the landlord does not need a reason to evict, and Section 8 Ground 8 evictions, where tenants in more than 2 months’ of rent arrears cannot challenge an eviction
  3. Unfreeze Local Housing Allowance so benefit claimants can pay the rent – rates are frozen at 2019-20 levels
  4. Restore Discretionary Housing Payment funding to 2020-21 levels, when £180m was available for renters struggling with housing costs
  5. Reinstate the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift
  6. Ban landlords from demanding multiple months’ rent up front – a tactic used to deny benefit claimants a home
  7. Increase funds to clear tenants’ rent arrears from the £65m provided in October 2021

Although interest rates are rising, home owners are able to minimise costs by remortgaging. Renters don’t have the same option: if your landlord thinks they can get a higher rent from a new tenant, there’s not much you can do. If you try to negotiate, your landlord can simply serve a Section 21 no-fault eviction notice.

With renters so vulnerable to rent hikes and incomes stagnant, this causes impossible choices between paying rent and putting food on the table. Without a suspension of evictions and a rent freeze, the cost of living crisis will lead to spiralling rent arrears and homelessness for thousands of families.