Tag Archives: renters

Time for the government to “stand by its promise” to renters

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood, StockSnapPhoto by Suzy Hazelwood from StockSnap

The government has just one month to act before measures protecting private renters from evictions proceedings expire.

Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government previously said that ‘no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home’, before announcing a temporary pause on repossession action. This pause is currently scheduled to end on 25 June.

Citizens Advice is warning this presents a ‘cliff-edge’ that will pitch some renters into long-term debt or homelessness.

The charity says the government must act now to prevent larger-scale problems and save people from losing their homes.

Research by the charity earlier this month suggested that 2.6 million private renters had already missed, or expected to miss, a rent payment because of coronavirus.

In the two months since lockdown began, Citizens Advice has helped over 10,000 people with issues around the private rented sector. Of these, over 1,000 of their issues related to possible eviction, despite the government’s protections.

In Ipswich, we have assisted over 200 people with housing and rent arrears issues since the lockdown.

The charity is calling for additional protections for renters vulnerable to eviction because of coronavirus. These include:

Accelerating the process to end section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions

Putting in place temporary changes allowing the courts more discretion for tenants in arrears because of coronavirus

When these measures are in place, implementing a ‘pre-action protocol’ of steps that landlords must follow before they can bring possession proceedings.

A report out today (22 May 2020) from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee has endorsed these recommendations. It’s calling for the abolition of section 21 evictions and greater discretion for judges to prevent possession action where arrears have built up owing to Covid-19. If implemented, these changes should give the pre-action protocol the necessary ‘teeth’.

Case Study

Julie* works in retail and has been furloughed while the business she works for is closed. While she normally takes home about £1,100 a month through her work and overtime, she is currently only receiving £700 a month (a 36% fall in income), causing huge strain to her finances.

Julie says:

“I started worrying as my wages would only cover my rent. Citizens Advice suggested that I ask my letting agency to lower the rent for a few months.”

“The agency came back to me saying that I should pay what I could afford. Then they said that the rent had to be paid at a rate set by them or I would be evicted.

“They started putting a lot of pressure on me and even said I should cancel payments for everything I did not need to ensure I could pay my rent. I suffer from anxiety so this is really stressful as I have loans, bills, food and my council tax to pay.”

“I’ve been able to get a Debt Management Plan for my loans so it’s now a bit more manageable. But even with this plan in place, I’ve had to apply for Universal Credit as I barely have enough to cover my food, let alone my essential bills”.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“There’s just one month to go before the protections that were put in place to protect renters from eviction during the coronavirus outbreak run out.

“In the midst of this pandemic, it’s not right that renters should face the looming threat of eviction. With millions of people out of work and millions more on reduced incomes, it is a real struggle for many people to pay their rent.

“The government said no one should be forced out of their home because of coronavirus. It’s now time to stand by that promise and protect renters from the prospect of long-term debt or homelessness. ”

Private renters in poor quality homes face £1,000 higher costs to heat their homes

Three quarters of a million private renters are stuck in the coldest and draughtiest homes, new Citizens Advice analysis reveals.

To heat their homes to a comfortable standard, these tenants face spending £1,000 more than the national average on their energy bills – but are reliant on landlords to make cost-saving improvements.

Citizens Advice analysis reveals landlords could be raking in almost a quarter of a billion (£242 million) per month for letting out homes that will be freezing cold in the winter.

Some 750,000 private tenants are thought to be living in over 300,000 properties in England with the worst energy efficiency ratings of F and G. These renters face more problems with damp, lack of central heating and poor insulation.

Renters living in band F and G homes:

  • Are twice as likely to suffer from damp than any other properties
  • Half a million have no access to central heating or storage heaters
  • Nearly two thirds have no wall insulation
  • Less than half have modern condensing boilers, which have been mandatory for any new or replacement installations since 2005

The average private rent for F and G band properties in England is £174 per week. In addition to this, energy bills are often very expensive in these homes.

Those currently living in the lowest, G rated, properties face spending £2,600 a year to keep warm – more than twice as high as the national average (£1,210), according to research from the Association for the Conservation of Energy.

The Energy Act 2011 introduced a legal requirement for all rented properties to have an energy efficient rating of at least Band E by 2020. All new tenancies must meet Band E standards by 2018.

However, regulations introduced last year means landlords don’t have to take any action that costs them an upfront fee.

Citizens Advice says the government should make landlords carry out improvements costing less than £5,000 that will take homes up to the minimum Band E standard. It also says a new fund – paid for by the stamp duty levy – could be set up to help landlords pay for more expensive improvements.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Thousands of private tenants face a bleak winter in cold and draughty homes.”

“Not only do they suffer more problems with damp and poor heating, these private renters also pay way over the odds on energy bills to keep warm. But with private tenants footing the cost of heating, landlords have little incentive to make upgrades.”

“Our research reveals that many landlords still have a long way to go to bring the worst energy wasting homes up to scratch – so it’s vital the government takes action to insist that all landlords who can afford to – raise standards in the homes they let.”

“If people are happy to take on the role of a landlord – they need to be responsible enough to make sure the property is safe, comfortable and fairly priced.”

Citizens Advice also proposes setting up a new energy improvement fund to help landlords with improvements costing more than £5,000. This fund would be paid for by increasing the stamp duty levy on buy-to-let homes to 4%. This would raise over £200 million to be used for efficiency improvements. The fund could also incentivise landlords to make further improvements that would take their property rating up to Band C.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer at Ipswich Citizens Advice added:

“Next week Citizens Advice Ipswich will be taking part in Big Energy Savings Week to encourage people to check fuel usage and take action where necessary. Private renters are often at a disadvantage as to tariffs or the quality of heating systems. Citizens Advice can help them work out what steps they can take to avoid or minimise fuel poverty.”