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Experts call for the government to cover rents of tenants affected by coronavirus

2-minute read

Mollie Millman

30 March 2020

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Tenants impacted by coronavirus should have their rents paid directly by the government, according to experts.

It may be the only way to keep some tenants in their homes, explained David Cox, of ARLA Propertymark.

While this would protect tenants, it could also protect landlords, especially those with a buy-to-let mortgage to pay or those with no other sources of income.

Should the government go further?

The government has already implemented a number of measures to protect landlords and tenants, including a ban on evictions and a three-month mortgage payment holiday.

But in some cases, these measures may not be enough to prevent some tenants from losing their homes.

Tenants falling through the gaps

Mr Cox said: ”Tenants face financial ruin amid mounting rent arrears and crippling debt if they fall through the gaps of the Government's current provisions.

“This is particularly the case for those who work in the gig economy or who are self-employed.

“The knock-on effect of this is that landlords are not receiving their rent and are falling into financial ruin, which ripples out across the economy.”

Incomes are under threat

Tenants face losing their home if they’re not able to pay their rent – and this risk is greater now as incomes come under threat.

Tenants may be unable to work due to illness, or because they’ve unfortunately had their job cut as the economy is forced into hibernation.

Mr Cox explained that by stepping in early, it means everyone in the rental chain can benefit. He said: “For everyone's sake, the Government needs to pay people's rents if they are impacted by the coronavirus.

“It is what the welfare state is there to do and the Government needs to do the right thing.”

Could rent be paid via Universal Credit?

The rental payment system would need to work on a self-declaration basis, according to Mr Cox. Those who have lost their income – either through illness or after being laid off – would apply for their rent to be paid via Universal Credit.

They would send evidence that they had lost their income to the Department of Work and Pensions, and their rent could be paid directly to their landlord.

Evidence could include a sick note issued by calling 111, a P45 or confirmation from their former employer that they had been laid off.

What do you think of this suggestion? Let us know in the comments below.

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