The measures brought in by the housing minister Robert Jenrick on the 18th March banned any applications for new evictions in the next 3 months, but still compelled renters to repay any rent payments they can't afford at this time through a future payment plan. This will leave thousands of renters out of pocket for weeks or even months as they try to pay back arrears once the crisis has abated.
The government commitment to pay for statutory sick pay will fall far short of the figure most renters pay every month to keep a roof over their heads. The average rent for a one bedroom flat according to the BBC is £650 per month. 4 weeks statutory sick pay is £377. The government website says that some people can claim universal credit, but the amount you can receive towards housing is capped. This leaves renters who are ill, self isolating or whose workplaces have had to close, at risk of amassing large rent arrears throughout the crisis.
The government has announced 3 month payment holiday for buy-to-let mortgage holders, this should go hand in hand with a rent suspension with no expectation for that rent to be repaid. Landlords will have the asset of a house for as long as they choose to keep it, and even if it takes 3 more months to pay off their mortgage the house will ultimately be theirs.
Putting renters into debt is irresponsible. In the interest of public health, the government must ensure that renters do not risk going into debt by self isolating to contain the virus.
The housing minister should also extend the ban on evictions to all those that are currently going through the legal system in order to not put further strain on public services in the next few weeks.
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ACORN commits to continuing to campaign for renters rights throughout this crisis.
ACORN is a community and tenants union which campaigns to further the rights of ordinary people by organising where we live to stand up to landlords, businesses and governments. Join our movement and find out more on our website: acorntheunion.org.uk