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The effect of Covid-19 on Renters

Our People - Navin Bundhoo
30 March, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic is here, affecting millions of people in the UK. What does this mean for you if you are currently renting a property in UK?

Although the sensible suggestion is to stay at home and reduce the chances of spreading the virus, this does raise concerns for the 20 million private renters who may have difficulties in paying their rent and other bills should they not be able to work during this period. Figures have shown that around two-thirds (63%) of renters have no savings and renters typically spend 40% of their income on housing costs. In cases like these, many may face difficulties in keeping up with their rental obligations.

Pressure groups such as Generation Rent have called on the Government to halt no-fault evictions and evictions for rent arrears. They have also requested for the Government to freeze rent increases for a year and remove the five-week wait for housing benefit.  

What has the UK Government’s response been?

The Government have come out and said that they will look to bring forward emergency legislation to protect private renters from eviction. Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey had drawn up draft legislation to prevent landlords from evicting tenants who fail to pay their rent after being out of work because of the coronavirus. This could mean that non-payment of rent after contracting Covid-19 would not count as legal grounds for eviction. The proposed legislation would span for an initial period from 1 March 2020 to 1 September 2020, with an option to extend should the Covid-19 pandemic continue.

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick has also announced plans that emergency legislation will be enforced to ensure landlords cannot start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period, in a bid to ensure renters do not worry about the threat of losing their home. Mr Jenrick said: “The Government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.” The three-month mortgage payment holiday announced by the Chancellor on Tuesday will also be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to the Covid-19 outbreak. 

However, there are still many uncertainties at this stage, as we are still in the early phases of Covid-19. Currently there has been no clarity as to whether the new legislation will cover people who are required to self-isolate due to having symptoms or whether it will solely cover those who have been tested and confirmed to have contracted Covid-19. 

There are also other issues that would need to be looked at, such as, what will happen after the three-month grace period has passed. If the Covid-19 pandemic goes on to last for several months, those renting in the private rented sector may face the same threats of eviction unless the Government intervenes again to provide additional support.

Kate Henderson, of the National Housing Federation, which represents Housing Associations in England, has also given reassurances for Housing Association tenants. She states that, “No-one should be evicted because of the coronavirus. We are confident that no housing association will do this, and want anyone affected by the outbreak to be reassured they will not be evicted”. It appears for the time being at least, those currently residing in Housing Association properties will be provided additional security during these turbulent times. However, how long this can last for if the Covid-19 pandemic gets worse is another matter.

The reality of the situation

Covid-19 has completely shaken up the UK Economy. The unfortunate reality is that many people will be affected by Covid-19 and unless the Government provides additional support, there may be serious implications for the people who are currently renting in the private rented sector. 

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