04 Nov 2020

An analysis of the private rental sector by the London School of Economics suggests there could be three times the current number of private tenants in rent arrears in England in the next 12 months.

The research, conducted by the LSE for the Trust for London charitable foundation, says the areas could affect as many as 700,000 tenants and their landlords.

These arrears could be expected to lead to at least three times the number of formal evictions as before the crisis, resulting in around 50,000 over the coming year.

However, the study concedes that an early spike in evictions is unlikely since government changes to notice periods until March 2021 mean landlords will normally have to wait at least six months before issuing a notice to regain possession. 

Furthermore, the LSE says courts are putting off hearings for months – some into 2023 – meaning that evictions could be further postponed.

Christine Whitehead, emeritus professor of housing economics at the LSE, says: “We’re likely to see a slow burn of evictions that will go on at least into 2022. This will leave more and more tenants – and sometimes their landlords – facing months of insecurity, mental stress and hardship.”

She believes that increases in evictions will mean that there will be far more households in need of local authority support, with perhaps 30,000 more households placed in temporary accommodation.

Whitehead says central government has an important role to play through its control of benefit levels, particularly the Local Housing Allowance which sets what rents people claiming benefits – many for the first time – can afford. 

Susie Dye, grants manager at Trust for London, adds: “The research brings into sharp relief what we already knew about the private rented sector, particularly in London but also across England. 

“Tenants’ lack of security mean that those losing income, maybe for the first time due to COVID, are at risk of debt and losing their homes. It might not happen rapidly due to the welcome measures the government and local authorities have taken, but stress for those affected is real. 

“We’d love to see the government’s promise to stop no fault evictions enacted in the Renters Rights Bill, and as recommended here, benefits and local authority homelessness prevention being strengthened, so that the system is not overwhelmed.”

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