Protecting private renters affected by coronavirus
With the huge uncertainty caused by coronavirus, Cllr Sem Moema, Hackney Council's Mayoral Adviser for Private Renting and Housing Affordability, has called on landlords to support private renters affected by the outbreak, and asked government to ban non-payment of rent due to coronavirus being used as a basis for eviction.
Cllr Moema's letter to Minister for Housing, Christopher Pincher MP, said:
In light of the huge uncertainty that coronavirus is causing across the country, I am writing to encourage you to do everything you can to support and protect private renters in Hackney – and across the UK – who are or will become affected by the outbreak.
With around a third of our borough’s residents renting their home, tens of thousands of people in Hackney are living in one of the most expensive private rented sectors in the country. In recent years, rents have risen much faster than incomes, leaving many renters spending a large proportion of their income on rent and unable to build up savings in the event of an emergency.
It is clear already that many renters’ incomes will be significantly affected, whether because of sickness, self-isolation or the wider economic impact caused by the outbreak. Even where people are entitled to sick pay or Universal Credit, this will be insufficient to cover rent levels for the vast majority of renters in a borough where Local Housing Allowance has not kept pace with rent levels, and where a two bedroom home costs more than £1,800 a month on average to rent.
Those who are among the most likely to have their employment impacted are also more likely to be renters – for example freelancers, workers in the gig-economy, those employed in the relatively low-paid hospitality industry , or in jobs such as cleaning, security and the care sector.
In Hackney we are already taking steps to protect those affected. We will be supporting tenants affected by coronavirus across the more than 20,000 homes that we manage, working closely with them to ensure they receive all the financial help they are entitled to, and giving them time and help while the full impact of the outbreak remains unclear. Our ability to support our residents living in privately rented homes is however limited; it is clear that private renters whose incomes are affected by coronavirus should not be put in the position of choosing face eviction and homelessness if they rightly follow public health advice or suffer changes to their employment/income as a result of the virus.
We welcome the support outlined by the Chancellor yesterday; measures outlined to support landlords and owner-occupiers were a welcome approach to minimising financial hardship for those sectors and I would hope the Government seeks to do the same for the one-third of households in Hackney who rent their homes privately. While the security of so many renters across the country remains unclear, I strongly encourage you to put measures in place to ban non-payment of rent due to coronavirus being used as a basis for eviction.
I look forward to hearing from you on the steps being taken to protect private renters in these extremely difficult circumstances.
Do you need support?
Our benefits and housing needs service can help ensure tenants are getting the financial support they are entitled to, provide advice on maintaining tenancies, and – where there is likely to be shortfalls in rent payments – help with applications for discretionary housing payments. Full information is available at hackney.gov.uk/housing-options
Our website also lists all the usual support available for residents on low incomes who may be experiencing hardship:
Apply to the Council’s Discretionary Crisis Support Scheme for help with urgent financial needs
Apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment if you’re having difficulty paying your rent
Check if you’re eligible for Housing Benefit or a reduction in your Council Tax