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1.7 million renters face losing their job in the next three months, says poll

One in five tenants in England are feeling the heat and Shelter say that boosting Universal Credit payments even higher is the way to stop spiralling debts, poverty and evictions down the line

Renting Yuki Mok/PA

The coronavirus crisis is leaving 1.7 million private renters facing losing their job in the next three months, leaving them open to “spiralling debt, poverty and eviction” once protection against the latter ends.

A new YouGov poll, commissioned by Shelter, revealed that one in five renters in England say they are likely to become unemployed.

Since the government announce its employee retention scheme, almost one in four renters have seen their incomes drop or lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

And many have limited reserves – two million people in private rented properties say they won’t be able to pay their rent if they lose their job.

It’s a situation that some Big Issue vendors who are renting will be facing after we were forced to temporarily halt sales on the street. That’s why we are working to support vendors and switched temporarily to a subscriber model, as well as selling in stores, so we can help vendors with an income to cover their bills.

As for Shelter, they are calling on the government to double down on the increases to Universal Credit payments they recently announced. The housing charity has been calling for a rise in housing benefits to cover the average cost of local rents for some time as part of their Cover the Cost campaign.

But with so many people turning to the controversial benefits system for the first time, the need is more stark than ever. The Resolution Foundation’s analysis today found that the number of claims made in the last four weeks has now topped 1.4 million, showing an enormous upsurge.

But Shelter chief executive Polly Neate says that the payments claimants receive must be enough to cover rent. For example, the shortfall for families renting a two-bedroom home could be as high as £400 outside London or reach £1,227 in the English capital.

“The government has rightly suspended evictions until June, so no one has to face homelessness in the middle of this pandemic,” said Neate. “But millions of renters will be in dire straits further down the line without more government support.

“As renters lose their jobs and see their incomes hit, many will have to rely on the welfare safety net for the first time. Our services are already hearing from families in homes they could comfortably afford under normal circumstances, who are now in serious financial difficulty.

“We’re facing an onslaught of people suddenly unable to afford their rent, at a time when people need to stay put and cannot safely move to a cheaper home. To avoid spiralling debt and needless evictions once the ban lifts, the government must increase the housing element of Universal Credit so that it covers the average cost of local rents.”

We’re facing an onslaught of people suddenly unable to afford their rent, at a time when people need to stay put and cannot safely move to a cheaper home

The Government initially vowed to halt any new eviction proceedings beginning on or since March 18 but a government spokesperson has confirmed that they have the power to extend the measures.

They said: “The government has put in place unprecedented measures to support tenants from getting into financial hardship or rent arrears, including protecting millions of jobs up and down the country and increasing Universal Credit and housing allowances.

“Emergency legislation is now in place so no social or private renter can be forced out of their home – with landlords unable to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least the next three months. We have the power to extend this if necessary.”

Image: Yuki Mok

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