Around a quarter of a million private renters in England could be at risk of losing their homes when a ban on evictions ends next month, according to estimates from Shelter.
A survey for the charity found 3% of adults in the private rented sector have fallen into arrears since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
It estimates that this could equate to 227,000 renters across the country who have fallen behind with payments. Shelter is concerned they could lose their homes when the evictions ban ends on August 23.
People who accrue rent arrears of eight weeks or more can be automatically evicted, in addition to the risk of being subjected to a Section 21 “no fault” eviction, Shelter said.
The housing charity claimed that unless the Government acts to protect the renters thrown into financial difficulty by Covid-19, judges will be “powerless” to stop them from losing their homes once the ban lifts.
The minute the evictions ban lifts, the 230,000 already behind with their rent could be up for automatic eviction if they’ve built up eight weeks-worth of arrears.Polly Neate, chief executive, Shelter
The charity found nearly a third (31%) of renters feel more depressed and anxious about their housing situation. The same proportion of renters said they are having sleepless nights.
Shelter said around one in four calls it has had from private renters to its emergency helpline and contact via the webchat service have concerned people scared of losing their home.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The financial chaos of Covid-19 means that many private renters are in danger of being evicted when the current ban lifts.”
She added: “The minute the evictions ban lifts, the 230,000 already behind with their rent could be up for automatic eviction if they’ve built up eight weeks worth of arrears. And judges will be powerless to help them.
“That’s more than the entire population of Portsmouth at risk of losing their homes. And let’s not forget: this pandemic is not over.”
She said judges should be given powers “to ensure that no renter is automatically evicted, and the impact of coronavirus is always considered”.
More than 1,000 private renters were surveyed across England between June 4 and 11.
Chris Norris, policy director for the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) said: “Throughout the lockdown, our surveys show that the vast majority of landlords have been doing all they can to keep people in their homes. Our recently published guidance supports tenants and landlords to hold discussions about how to address rent arrears and sustain tenancies.
“It is important though to distinguish between tenants affected by Covid-19 and those who were building rent arrears before lockdown, sometimes for several months and sometimes wilfully.
“When the courts restart hearing possession cases the latter should be the priority along with instances where tenants are committing anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.”
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: “The Government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic and prevent people from getting into financial hardship.
“We have introduced the furlough scheme to protect jobs, provided over £6.5 billion to strengthen the welfare safety net, and introduced higher Local Housing Allowance rates to cover the lowest 30% of market rents.
“We have also provided protections to renters that have meant no-one has been forced from their home as a result of the pandemic.
“We’re working with the judiciary to provide appropriate protection to those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus when proceedings start again.”