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Trade bodies split over how to help tenants repay Covid rent arrears

Safeagent is pushing for an upgraded Discretionary Housing Payment scheme, while Propertymark and the NRLA want a system of loans and grants.

Nigel Lewis

rent arrears

Lettings and property management trade body Safeagent has called for the government to use its Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) system to support tenants who are in rent arrears due to Covid.

The not-for-profit accreditation scheme says enhancing DHPs would be the most effective way to support tenants who are struggling with arrears.

Its Chief Executive Isobel Thomson says she does not believe loans and grants are the way forward, unlike the National Residential Landlords Association, which recently called on the government to make guaranteed, interest free hardship loans available for tenants in arrears but who do not qualify for benefit support.

Grants should be made available for those in receipt of benefits, it said.

Propertymark has also recently made its position clear – joining Shelter and other organisations including the NRLA to campaign for an emergency financial support package of grants and no-interest loans to help tenants to clear COVID-related rent arrears and emerge from the crisis with a fresh start.

Safeagent, which was not part of this campaign, says at the moment tenants can only be ‘passported’ to DHPs if they are on Universal Credit (UC) or its predecessor, Housing Benefit even though many of them are in employment.

It says a modified DHP scheme could, therefore, help a wide range of renters who may have arrears now, or might be impacted in the future by the coming UC reduction and National Insurance increases.

Isobel Thomson imageIsobel Thomson, Safeagent Chief Executive, says: “An enhanced DHP system could have a key role to play in helping people as they find work and clear debts to stay in their homes.

“If the Government is serious about supporting tenants there must be an easy to access system for those in need. Rather than creating a new tenant hardship loan scheme, surely modifying DHPs is a more cost effective way forward?”.

September 29, 2021

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