The National Residential Landlords Association says average rent debt owed by tenants as a direct result of the pandemic is still increasing.
A survey of over 2,000 private renters in England and Wales by research consultancy Dynata for the NRLA found that average Covid related rent arrears owed by affected tenants had increased to £1,270, up from £900 as recently as May.
Whilst the proportion of tenants with arrears built up since the pandemic started in March2 2020 has almost halved to 3.7 per cent from 7.0 per cent in May, there are still some 430,000 private renters with Covid arrears.
The survey found also that 57 per cent of those with such arrears were not in receipt of Universal Credit, so making them ineligible for Discretionary Housing Payments.
NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle says: “Whilst landlords have done all they can to support affected tenants, they simply cannot afford for this situation to continue indefinitely.
“With the government having made funding available for affected tenants it is now vital that councils get this to those affected renters as swiftly as possible.
“In doing so they should prioritise those not eligible for emergency housing benefit support. This course of action is the best way to sustain tenancies and keep people in their homes.”
In the NRLA survey, some 59 per cent of private renters in receipt of Universal Credit said that the decision to cut payments by £20 a week made it more difficult for them to cover the cost of their rents.
The government has made funding available for councils in England to help vulnerable renters affected by the pandemic, and the NRLA is calling on local authorities to ensure this is focused on those unable to access emergency housing benefit support.
For those in receipt of Universal Credit, the NRLA is calling on the government to reverse what it calls “its damaging decision to freeze the housing cost support element.”