The Association of Residential Letting Agents is urging its members to write to their MPs over the provision of cash help for tenants during the pandemic.
Propertymark is part of a cross-sector group calling on the government to deliver a package of emergency measures to support tenants in England who have built up arrears specifically through COVID-19 related issues.
The package includes ring-fenced funding administered through local authorities, using a mechanism like the Discretionary Housing Payment; an additional cash injection into local welfare assistance schemes; and government-backed, interest-free loans for tenants not eligible for the above support.
Last week the Scottish Government launched a new £10m fund, along with a further increase in the Discretionary Housing Payment funds, so that no one will be unable to afford their rent.
Here is the template letter it wants agents to write to their Members of Parliament:
Dear (insert name of MP),
As a professional local letting agent working in your constituency, I am writing to you to urge you to raise the issue of support for tenants who have built up rent arrears as a result of the pandemic.
Government action like the furlough scheme and the increase in Local Housing Allowance has supported many tenants to continue their rent payments, however it remains the case that there are many instances where support is still insufficient. With the courts reopening on 20 September for possession hearings for the first time since the crisis began, further measures are needed to help sustain tenancies.
As a business we wish to do everything we can to support tenants, however the non-payment of rent has become untenable for both landlords and tenants. This is why we are supporting the campaign from ARLA Propertymark and other leading sector organisations including NRLA, Shelter, Generation Rent, Crisis and Citizens Advice, calling on the Government to deliver a package of emergency measures to support tenants who have built up arrears specifically through COVID related issues.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ in approach, and I support these organisations in calling for the following:
- For those tenants in receipt of benefits, or who would otherwise be eligible for benefits but have no recourse to public funds, support should take the form of a dedicated grant. This could be administered by local authorities, using a mechanism like the Discretionary Housing Payment, but it must be designed so that it gets to those that need emergency funding now to pay off their arrears.
- Further funds could be made available through an additional cash injection into local welfare assistance schemes, building on the £63 million the Government committed in June 2020.
- For other tenants, such as those who have been furloughed and are struggling to pay their rent now but will be able to pay in the future, support should take the form of a Government-backed, interest-free loan. This could be administered by a third party such as a credit union or a bank or building society.
The COVID health pandemic is an unexpected crisis, and therefore requires a one-off intervention to address specifically Covid-related arrears. This will enable both tenants and landlords to continue the tenancy and support tenants to remain in their homes. If such assistance is not given, we could be faced with a homeless crisis when the eviction ban ends as well as a generation of tenants saddled with crippling rent arrears.
Furthermore, the stay on evictions means that landlords are under increased pressure to support tenants who cannot afford the rent, without any compensation, while also continuing to pay mortgages and bills. As much as decent landlords and agents like myself wish to continue to help tenants, this situation is unsustainable.
Please raise this issue in Parliament and with the Government to ensure that tenants get the support they need and tenancies are maintained.