Renters face coronavirus crisis: Millions in ‘dire straights’ as 1 in 4 see income slashed

The coronavirus pandemic is causing financial difficulty for many Britons, with new research by homeless charity Shelter revealing renters may struggle to pay their rent over the next few months. Polling by YouGov has found just under a quarter of renters (24 percent) say they have already seen their incomes fall, or lost their jobs, as a result of the current crisis.

About the same amount, 23 percent, say losing their job will leave them immediately unable to pay their rent.

In addition, one in five private renters in England, an estimated 1.7million adults, say they expect to lose their jobs in the next three months because of COVID-19.

Shelter is warning a growing number of people will need to rely on welfare benefits for the first time to cover their basic costs and that many may fall behind on their rent payments.

But the housing charity fear current Universal Credit rates are too low, despite the recent 1.7 percent increase.

The housing element of Universal Credit only covers the lowest third of market rents in an area, meaning those paying average rents will face a large shortfall.

For families in a two-bedroom home, the shortfall is as high as £400 a month outside of London, and up to £1,227 in the capital.

As a result, the charity is urging the Government to increase housing benefit, so it covers the average cost of local rents.

Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “The Government has rightly suspended evictions until June, so no one has to face homelessness in the middle of this pandemic.

“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.

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“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.”

Sam, a 26-year-old from the South East, rents a room privately and recently lost his job working as a chef.

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He has since applied for Universal Credit, but the amount given to him will leave him just £111.11 a month after paying his rent.

But he has since found out that the amount of benefits given to him has been reduced, due to having an advance, budgeting loan and fines leaving him £5 short on his rent and with no spare cash to spend on groceries.

He said: “This uncertainty has led to sometimes a slightly strained relationship between me and the landlord.

“I feel if I didn’t have someone so understanding and helpful, I would have been on the streets a long time ago.

Giles Peaker, a housing lawyer and partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors, has also urged the Government to urgently address the issue.

He told “This survey confirms that the effect of coronavirus will put many tenancies at risk.

“The action taken by the Government and Courts have delayed landlords bringing possession claims, but the build up of rent arrears means that a flood of possession claims and evictions will follow when the restrictions are removed.

“Many decent landlords will make arrangements with their tenants to delay payment, but many won’t and the result will be many more evictions and homelessness.”

YouGov surveyed 498 adults privately renting in England between March 24-27.

The figures have been weighted and are representative of all privately renting adults (aged 18+) according to information provided by Shelter, a charity that campaigns to end homelessness and bad housing in England and Scotland.

Estimates of the population of renters are calculated using a combination of the English Housing Survey 2018-19, Census 2011 and Office for National Statistics 2018 mid-year population estimates by age.

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