Renters should get emergency grants to stop them from being evicted if they can't pay rent, campaigners warn

RENTERS behind on payments should be given emergency grants to stop them from losing their homes, a group of housing charities, landlords and letting agents have warned.

Around 322,000 tenants – or 4 per cent of renters – are in arrears since March due to the coronavirus crisis, according to Shelter.

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A ban on evictions in England and Wales, which was extended again last week, is due to end in September and experts fear this could lead to mass homelessness.

The organisations who've joined forces are housing charities Shelter and Crisis, tenant campaign group Genteration Rent, tradebodies National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), ARLA Propertymark, and Citizens Advice.

The group is calling on the government to issue a £270million grants and loans package to support those who's income has dropped due to furlough, reduced hours, pay cuts or being let go from their jobs.

The emergency funds would only be used to help tenants pay off any unexpected rent arrears built up since the lockdown, and would be paid back where possible, over a period of time.

What to do if you can’t pay your rent

FOR private renters, speak to your landlord as soon as you can.

They may be able to defer your payment, or to allow you to pay a smaller amount – but they don't have to do this.

Social renters should speak to their housing association.

Currently, renters are safe from being evicted after Boris Johnson banned landlords from booting out their tenants.

This measure started on March 27, was initially mean to last for 90 days but has been extended twice.

It is due to end on September 20.

When it does end, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan.

If you're finding it difficult to manage your payments because you're in debt, here are some tips for you to curb it:

Check your bank balance on a regular basis – knowing your spending patterns is the first step to managing your money

Work out your budget – by writing down your income and taking away your essential bills such as food and transport
If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs

Pay off more than the minimum – If you’ve got credit card debts aim to pay off more than the minimum amount on your credit card each month to bring down your bill quicker

Pay your most expensive credit card sooner – If you have more than one credit card and can’t pay them off in full each month, prioritise the most expensive card (the one with the highest interest rate)

Prioritise your debts – If you’ve got several debts and you can’t afford to pay them all it’s important to prioritise them. Your rent, mortgage, council tax and energy bills should be paid first because the consequences can be more serious if you don't pay

Get advice – If you’re struggling to pay your debts month after month it’s important you get advice as soon as possible, before they build up even further.

Groups like Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust or StepChange can also help you prioritise and negotiate with your creditors to offer you more affordable repayment plans.

The government believes that it has already launched an string of "unprecedented" measures to help renters through the crisis, including the furlough scheme and increasing Universal Credit.

But unlike homeowners who've been able to take mortgage holidays, there has been no option for renters to pause payments.

A cash injection would ensure renters can keep their homes and for landlords to protect their livelihoods.

The support package would also prevent rising homelessness, which the coalition argues will add to the current economic crisis.

Polly Neate, from Shelter, said that the charity has received a "deluge" of calls from worried households plunged unexpectedly into debt over the past six months.

She added: "We simply cannot afford to lurch into another devastating homelessness crisis now that will ruin countless lives and undermine the country’s economic recovery."

Her pleas are echoed by Chris Norris of the NRLA, who said: "Whilst the vast majority of landlords and tenants have been able to reach agreements where rent arrears have built, in some cases this has proved difficult.

"A financial package, such as that we propose today, would greatly assist tenants and landlords to achieve what we all want, namely to sustain tenancies."

A spokesperson for the government told The Sun that landlords will have to give tenants' six months notice of eviction once the ban ends, supporting them through winter.

They added: "For those who need more support we have strengthened the welfare safety-net with a nearly £9.3billion boost to the welfare system and there is already £180million in Discretionary Housing Payments for councils to distribute to help renters with housing costs in the private and social rented sectors."

In the meantime, landlords have agreed to offer tenants rent reductions if they're struggling to make ends meet due to the pandemic.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned that a third of renters on furlough fear they won't be able to afford housing costs now that lockdown has eased.

If you're struggling to pay the rent, here's a round up of all of the extra help available to you.

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