The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), whose existence came about following the merger of the NLA and RLA, has called on the Government to offer greater clarity on the payment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This comes after landlords voiced concerns that tenants might simply opt to not pay rent, even when they are in a position to do so. Groups such as Generation Rent and the National Union of Students have been vocal in campaigning to ensure rent breaks for tenants during the pandemic.
At the latest count, over 65,000 people across the UK are estimated to have been infected with COVID-19, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is now reported as having left intensive care, but it is understood that he remains in hospital.
Clarity on rental payments required
At present, an effective mortgage repayment holiday is in operation across the UK, based on the assumption that landlords may have tenants unable to pay some if not all of the rent they owe. The NRLA welcomed the flexibility of such a measure, but also urged the Government to underline clear guidance for tenants, outlining the latter’s legal and contractual obligations.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, commented on the existing setup, saying that tenants facing difficulties in paying rent due to loss of income could reach an agreement with landlords, allowing rent to be deferred for a time.
However, Mr. Beadle concluded: “This is not a green light to tenants everywhere to stop paying rent.”
The NRLA added that the vast majority of landlords (94 per cent) rent properties out as individuals, with 39 per cent of them claiming to have a gross income of under £20,000 on average. As so many landlords rely on rental income for their livelihoods, the NRLA is concerned that failure to receive rent could lead to a loss of housing supply, even when the pandemic ends.
Campaigners argue for more to be done
Groups such as Generation Rent have welcomed the steps taken by the Government in recent weeks, claiming victory after a successful campaign which saw thousands of renters and supporters write messages to their local MPs to prompt a change in approach.
The eviction ban, which was preceded by a plan to merely extend notice periods from two to three months, was introduced following pressure from renters, charities and legal experts. The ban means virtually all renters would be exempt from eviction for a period of up to three months, after which the temporary measure would be subject to review.
An increase in housing benefit on the cheapest 30 per cent of rental properties was welcomed by Generation Rent, as they argued that Local Housing Allowance had not been linked to rents since 2012. The new increase would allow renters to cover the rising cost of their rents, where possible.
Even so, the group argued that many renters remain concerned about living arrangements and need additional support, as thousands of them are expected to be faced with eviction by June, when eviction bans could be lifted. Generation Rent also highlighted the fact that some unscrupulous landlords were ignoring the ban and threatening renters with unlawful evictions.