Landlords and letting agents with tenants in rent arrears are to be helped via a new £65 million rent fund announced by the Government today.
To be provided during the winter months it will be distributed and managed by local authorities, who will be free to work out the best to support each household on a case-by-case basis.
Any money will be paid directly to their landlord, or a new landlord if the money is being used to support a household to find a new home.
This announcement follows months of lobbying by the NRLA, Propertymark and many other organisations to offer struggling tenants financial to clear their rent arrears or stave off an eviction.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities say this is on top of the £500 million of support for vulnerable families provided during Covid via its Household Support Fund.
Housing minister Eddie Hughes (main pic) says: “We have taken action throughout the pandemic to support the most vulnerable families, and it is vital we continue to provide support as we enter the winter months.”
The extra grant will be provided as a top-up to the government’s £310 million Homelessness Prevention Grant.
But Katie Schmuecker, Deputy Director of Policy & Partnerships at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, “estimates that the group this support is targeted at has built up around £440m of rent arrears”.
Chris Norris (pictured), Policy Director for the National Residential Landlords Association said: “We welcome the announcement of this funding and urge local authorities to target it at those tenants most struggling with Covid rent debts.
“It is great news that those households worst hit by Covid related arrears may be able to access financial support. However, £65 million does not fully reflect the scale of the problem. NRLA analysis has put the figure of COVID rent debts at over £300 million.
“With warnings that rent debts could pose a risk to the economic recovery and the Government admitting that many landlords are highly vulnerable to arrears the Chancellor must go further.”
Propertymark’s Policy and Campaigns Manager, commented, “This is good news for renters and good news for letting agents and their landlords. Many organisations including Propertymark have been calling for a package of financial support for months and this money will go some way in helping to sustain tenancies and preventing potential homelessness. Agents should now ensure that any tenants who are in arrears are directed immediately to their local authority for advice and support.”
Maxine Fothergill, ARLA Propertymark President, also commented on the measure, saying, “As lettings agents we know how many tenants have been struggling. Many landlords have worked with agents to find payment plans, renegotiate, mediate and do their best to find solutions to the financial difficulties being faced. This is a great relief for agents, landlords and tenants alike and we are very grateful for Mr Gove and his department for listening to Propertymark and others and taking steps which show the understanding of the value of the private rented sector.”