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Sunak making landlords the scapegoat for Covid arrears - claim

A stinging attack on Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been made by the National Residential Landlords Association.

The trade body has produced a new report accusing the Chancellor of turning his back on the support the private rental sector needs.

The association warns that without financial support to tackle Covid-related rent arrears, the Chancellor is forcing landlords into a corner. They either have to accept continuing to receive no income or resort to repossessing their property with all the consequences this course of action entails for tenants.


The NRLA is warning that the goodwill of landlords in the face of mounting rent debts cannot continue without support from the Treasury.

The report highlights the scale of the crisis, as over 800,000 people living in the private rented sector in England and Wales have rent arrears built since lockdown measures began which are still to be paid off. 

Of this group, the vast majority, 82 per cent, were not in arrears prior to the start of the pandemic.

Moreover, six out of 10 of landlords feel their lettings business will be negatively affected as a result of the pandemic, with 34 per cent saying their rental income has been impacted by the events of the past year. 

Despite more than nine in 10 landlords being individuals, and almost half renting out just one or two properties, among those who had offered at least one tenant a rent-free period or allowed rent to be deferred, 58 per cent had absorbed the losses from their savings.

The association reiterates that to help resolve this crisis, the government should introduce new measures to bring housing benefit support back into line with market rents. 

Government data shows that across the UK, in February 2021, 55 per cent of private rented households in receipt of Universal Credit which included housing cost support had a gap between that and the rents they paid. The average shortfall was £100 a month. 

Despite this, the Chancellor froze local housing allowance rates in cash terms from April this year, a decision the Institute for Fiscal Studies branded “arbitrary and unfair.”

The NRLA is calling for the Local Housing Allowance to return, at the very least, to cover the bottom 30 per cent of market rents in any given area, and preferably increased so that it covers average rents.

For the majority of tenants now in arrears but ineligible for benefit support, the NRLA is calling for a hardship loan scheme to help tenants pay off rent arrears built since lockdown measures started last March. 

These should be government guaranteed, interest free and repayable as the tenants’ incomes recover following the pandemic. The measure has the support of organisations such as the debt charities, StepChange and the Money Advice Trust, and Shelter.

Not only would it prevent tenants losing their home, it would stave off the difficulties that would be caused as a result of damaged credit scores. 

Of those tenants with Covid-related rent arrears, 26 per cent said that their landlord had attempted to reclaim these through a court order. Such steps serve to damage a tenant’s credit score making it difficult for them to access new housing in the future.



NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle says: “The Chancellor has clearly decided on a strategy of making landlords the scapegoats for a crisis of his own making. 

“For less than the cost of the ‘Eat Out to Help Out Scheme’ he could provide landlords and tenants with the financial support they need to keep tenants in their homes and prevent damage to credit scores.

“Landlords want to sustain tenancies wherever possible, but without the support so many desperately need, the Chancellor will need to accept the tragic costs of his failure to act.”

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    For eviction processes to be truly effective the government needs to help with legislation to assist landlords recover unpaid back rent by registering the debt with any benefit claims made by evicted tenants.


    and tie CCJs to the tenants NI number so that whenever and wherever they work, a charging order can be used to recover arrears.

    Theodor Cable

    Excellent idea.......And the fact of a CCJ and NI number and that will be with them for life so that we will know if they have been a defaulter.

    And before any one says that is unfair and they will not get a tenancy, then of course, the issue becomes one that has to be resolved by local authorities.



    Definitely always get their passport & NI number before tenancy starts


    When making a moneyclaim the applicant is invited to enter a reference. Why not make part of this reference the NI number of the defendant?
    eg "AB123456X Jon Smith"

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    For eviction processes to be truly effective the government needs to help with legislation to assist landlords recover unpaid back rent by registering the debt with any benefit claims made by evicted tenants.DPB

  • PossessionFriendUK PossessionFriend

    What the NRLA are asking for is Nowhere near enough – too little, too late

    Of course landlords have been made scapegoats and they knew that at the very start of the pandemic ( and even much before )

    The loan scheme in Wales is ‘ Optional ‘ so tenants are choosing. ” shall they burden themselves with years of debt, or just ignore unpaid rent, ” – Safe in knowledge that Government have prevented landlords from doing anything about it. !

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    If you view the situation from the perspective of the government, there is no incentive to help the landlord or use the the small amount of discretionary time in the parliamentary timetable to help landlords.
    The govt are facing an unknown economic impact from COVID that will only be assessable once furlough is lifted and the we have some visability as to how they will be able to function with the long term unsustainable debt loads they have incurred.
    In this context, profitability and even viability of BTL landlord businesses are tomorrow's issues - as long as the lending banks have sufficient equity buffer in homes securing the loans - which they have. So keeping people in houses - whether or not they pay rent - is the logical priority. If this has a knock on effect of forcing small landlords out of the market, so much the better as it is much better from an accountability, financial planning and social policy perspective to have the PRS in a small number of hands. This would also accord with the operating environment in other countries e.g. Switzerland, where personal BTL is virtually impossible as it is view as more than a purely 'business' activity.
    So rightly or wrongly, in the absence of a crisis, not only would I expect the government to ignore the suggestions of the NRLA, the clear direction of travel is to impose more economic hardship on the PRS (eg Jan 2021 recommendations currently under consideration to increase PRS EPC min rating to C) until the pips squeak. Only then will it be addressed as it then becomes a current problem and not tomorrow's issue.

    Matthew Payne

    All true Gavin, HMG does plan the long term strategic transfer of power of the PRS from individual LLs to the BTR sector, but they are 10 years too early, their timing up the spout with too many ministers with too many individual conflicting agendas. If individual LLs get out of the PRS in any great numbers now, where are their rent defaulting tenants going to live? It wont be long before mainstream evictions start and S21 is coming back to the norm. No empty social housing, no ability to get a mortgage, no option to return to the shrinking PRS. Family for some perhaps, but for most others?


    IMHO the government are indeed taking actions to eliminate (or at least drastically reduce) the number of small privately owned LLs. They have legislated to reduce the private LLs profitability and now through Covid actions they are content through inaction to let the sector suffer more, driving more small LLs out of business. This then clears the way for large banks and investment groups to move in and buy up housing stock, (which is what is happening and as a result of this house prices continue to rise despite the dire state of the global economy). Once the stock is held by a few elites via these investment groups they will be free to pump up rents dramatically. Its a stitch up for the tenants and the private landlords!


    JE - I think this is probably the masterplan by the Etonians however this is going dangerously wrong as I am currently selling rental property & its going to homeowners! I turned down other LL offers as I aim to make a point to the local MP & council that has done nothing to help us. I warned them years ago with the question "Where are these tenants going to live?" The MP in question who is now in the shadow cabinet shrugged her shoulders & turned the discussion to weather I took on enough benefit tenants! True story

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    We all know that we won't get any help from government, in fact quite the reverse, but all the hurt will be passed onto tenants.

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    The government will only react when it is affected. Ideas please.


    With a majority in the house of commons and a belief that they don't need to listen to anyone (as there is no effective opposition), they will continue to run as a greedy dictatorship. Whilst the electorate continues to suffer from an extreme case of Stockholm Syndrome and continues to vote for this awful Conservative (Fascist) regime we won't see any change.


    While I don't disagree Julian what's the alternative, Labour ? that would be ''out of the frying pan and into the fire ''.


    Conservative Fascist - The irony I truly believe we are witnessing the first Socialist Tory government which proves the notion if you go extreme in either direction Left or Right you end up on the opposite side


    You would think that the government would want a fairly large PRS. What revenue is generated from private ownership? PRS produces tax on profits, higher stamp duty, VAT on agent and mortgage broker fees, creates jobs for agents, brokers, maintenance companies etc.

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    not socialist--fascist

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    The Conservatives are harder on landlords in England that the SNP are on landlords in Scotland and the Welsh Labour party are on landlords in Wales by not granting Interest Free loans to their tenants. By refusing to grant Interest free loans to tenants in England they are by default turning their backs on tenants in England whose income has been diminished by CoVid 19. This will result in a breakdown in relationships between Tenants in England and their Landlords resulting in a disproportionate higher level of evictions in England unfortunately .


    How many Scottish tenants have taken the SNP loans?

    The SNP lefty policies end up helping middle class Scots, with free University tuition, free prescriptions for all irrespective of how easily they could be afforded and soaring house prices and rents - all helping the wealthier Scots but harming the poor idiots who support the SNP and think they're on their side!

    I'm deeply grateful to the SNP who continue to make me wealthier but despise them and their racist anti UK propaganda.

  • Theodor Cable

    Cannot wait to see them keep all that going when the 5,000,000 of them leave the UK!
    Assuming of course that Brussels will allow them to?


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