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Eviction focus: almost all landlords received full rent through pandemic

With only a week to go until the courts begin to hear possession cases again, it seems the vast majority of tenants are at no risk of eviction. A new report dispels the myths behind the purported eviction surge.

After a five-month suspension, the courts will reopen to deal with eviction cases from 24th August. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all eviction processes were put on hold, and landlords were banned from issuing possession notices. This was in a bid to create more security for those in rented accommodation who were struggling in the pandemic.

There has been much in the press about the possibility of rent arrears affecting the sector. With thousands of employees put on furlough and others facing reduced wages or unemployment, times have been uncertain for everyone.

Landlords are helping tenants

However, a poll conducted by industry body the NRLA has revealed that an overwhelming majority of tenants and landlords have been working together throughout the crisis. More than 95% of private renters have continued to pay rent, or have set up an payment agreement with their landlord.

Around 87% have continued to pay full rent as normal throughout the past few months, said the survey. Only 3% of tenants who are in arrears are unwilling or unable to repay their rent. Of these, less than a third have received a possession notice from their landlord.

And the NRLA has found that landlords are doing “everything they can to keep tenants in their homes”. More than half (55%) of landlords have allowed at least one tenant to defer their rent, and plan to absorb these losses themselves.

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), said: “Consistent with our previous surveys, this latest data demonstrates that the vast majority of landlords and tenants are working together constructively to sustain tenancies, and critically that the overwhelming majority of tenants are paying as normal.

“Eviction is not, and need not be, an inevitable outcome where tenants have struggled to pay their rent due to COVID-19. Those who argue otherwise are stoking needless anxiety for tenants.”

Some tenants need help

The NRLA has asked the government to roll out hardship loans for tenants who are struggling. These would go to anyone who has ended up in arrears as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. With the furlough scheme set to end, many predict job losses will begin to affect more people.

Giving tenants the security of an interest-free loan to cover rent would be a safety net for landlords, too.

Ben Beadle adds: “When the courts do start to hear cases again, it is essential that they deal swiftly with the most serious cases, including those where tenants are committing anti-social behaviour or where there are long standing rent arrears that have nothing to do with the pandemic.”

“To offer security to tenants and landlords badly hit during the lockdown we are calling on the government to introduce a tenant loan scheme to help pay off arrears built due to the coronavirus.”

Doom and gloom isn’t realistic

Last week, London mayor Sadiq Khan said that a quarter of the capital’s renters were in arrears. He claimed that half a million people could potentially face eviction as a result.

The mayor believes landlords should be banned from serving Section 8 eviction notices if arrears are a result of coronavirus. He also thinks Section 21 eviction notices (‘no-fault’ evictions) should be scrapped, under similar reasoning.

However, the NRLA has spoken out against the mayor’s comments as “scaremongering”. The industry body has written to Sadiq Khan to ask for “greater collaboration” between him and private landlords.

The group points out that new rules will in fact prevent landlords from unfairly evicting tenants. These regulations will mean landlords must show that they have fully taken the impact of Covid-19 into account before starting any possession procedures.

Ben Beadle adds that it is not helpful to cause “unnecessary anxiety for tenants through making wild predictions about people losing their home”.

“The vast majority of tenants and landlords are working well together to weather the current crisis. With new court rules in place, it will be in the interests of landlords to do everything they can to sustain tenancies where possible.”

“It is that spirit of co-operation that we need to build upon.”

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