Renters’ unions are calling on the government to suspend rents for the duration of the coronavirus crisis after new research found that many people are having to choose between paying landlords and putting food on the table.
A fresh poll carried out for the Guardian by Opinium shows that a number of renters are currently in or on the brink of crisis, with one in six forced to seek extra financial help to stay afloat.
Kat Wright, national organiser for Acorn, which campaigns for tenants’ rights, said that there is a clear collision course set to develop between tenants and their landlords.
“We’re facing a huge surge in evictions once restrictions are lifted, and renters across the UK are already unable to pay their rent,” she said. “Tenants need protection from evictions post-emergency and from rent debt accrued during the crisis.”
Some tenants have already faced threats of punitive action from their landlords, according to the Guardian.
One self-employed renter, who preferred to remain unnamed, told the newspaper that when he approached his landlord to ask for a deferment of rent, he was served with an eviction notice in reply.
Some people who have lost income are being forced into taking whatever work they can in order to continue to pay their rents, often in front line jobs in the gig economy, but Amina Gichinga of the London Renters Union thinks that this is unfair.
Gichinga said: “Many renters feel they have no choice but to break social distancing guidelines and go out to work, just so their landlords can continue to profit.
“How are people supposed to pay rent with no income and at least a month’s wait for any government assistance? How are people in low-paid jobs meant to clear hundreds or thousands of pounds of rent arrears in the future?”
Gichinga continued: “All rent payments need to be suspended and rent arrears need to be waived urgently to keep renters safe from eviction and from debt, and to prevent the further spread of the virus.”