In Brief

Coronavirus: will rents be frozen?

Government facing calls to protect private tenants from eviction during outbreak

More than a million private tenants may be left homeless after losing their jobs unless the government implements a rent freeze, a think tank has warned.

The left-leaning New Economics Foundation (NEF) says that a three-month rent suspension would protect an estimated 1.2 million people who live in privately let homes and “who will miss out from the government’s Covid-19 job retention scheme”, reports The Guardian

A total of 5.6 million may face “severe financial hardship” after being made redundant, having their hours cut or because they are ineligible for the self-employed income protection scheme, the newspaper adds. 

Concerns are growing after Housing Minister Christopher Pincher confirmed last month that rent increases were still permitted during the lockdown, reports the London Evening Standard

Pincher said that the Coronavirus Act contained measures to protect both private and social tenants, including rent holidays, the unfreezing of the Local Housing Allowance, and the extension from two months to three of the period before a landlord is allowed to file an eviction notice against a tenant. 

Meanwhile, landlords are being supported with three-month mortgage holidays on buy-to-let loans. 

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But despite the government measures, campaign groups are predicting a spike in homelessness and evictions. And many renters are concerned about falling into debt to pay back missed rent in the coming months. 

Caitlin Wilkinson, policy manager at campaign group Generation Rent, told the Evening Standard: “Landlords should not be allowed to raise rents in the midst of a pandemic.

“The government’s own advice is to stay home and avoid moving house if possible - meaning tenants faced with a rent hike have very little choice but to stay put and accept it.”

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