The impact of the Covid pandemic has resulted in 700,00 people, in the UK, already in arrears with their rent payments. A study from the Joseph Rowntree foundation estimated the total of these arrears to be £400m already.
Between November 2019 and October 2020, 9,600 redundancies were proposed reaching the highest annual total since records began. The redundancies and lowered income for so many across the UK has resulted in 2.5 million households now worried about paying their bills as winter approaches. (https://aboutmanchester.co.uk/2-5-million-households-worried-about-paying-rent-over-winter-with-700000-already-in-arrears-and-350000-at-risk-of-eviction/)
Winter is a costly time of year for many annually. In February 2019 This is Money reported £33.4bn in unpaid debts, with some households predicted to be paying off winter debts until the summer. As a result of a fall in income for many households during 2020, a large proportion of renters are now severely cutting back spending in an attempt to offset their reduced income. Essentials such as food, heating and electric, as well as food and nappies for those with children, have been cut back since March.
While the support put in place by the government, such as the furlough scheme, has supported many individuals to retain their jobs, renters on low incomes have still seen significant financial implications of the lowered income. Left relying on their limited savings, cutting back on essentials or borrowing to survive, many households are still accumulating unmanageable levels of rent arrears.
350,000 households have already been served an eviction notice or spoken to about eviction by their landlords and yet this figure is predicted to increase. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned that without directed support for those in need, renters who have seen a reduction in income could be at risk of losing their homes this winter.
In the first phase of lockdown, the government Introduced an assurance that no one would be made homeless or evicted from their rentals. This second wave of lockdown, ensuring the same protections will be vital to protecting those on low incomes, who are now concerned about paying their rent.
Without protection, many vulnerable individuals and families could become homeless this winter. Without this support not only are renters struggling, but landlords also require support in order to survive this period of lower rent payments.
The extension of the furlough scheme will support many households throughout winter, however those on low incomes may find this support is not enough. The scheme was extended in October 2020 until March 2021 to protect as many jobs and incomes as possible during Winter.
The chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak acknowledged the challenges of the upcoming months, stating “Extending furlough and increasing our support for the self-employed will protect millions of jobs and give people and businesses the certainty they need over what will be a difficult winter.”
The result of the pandemic this winter is yet to be seen, however there are two clear expected outcomes for the financial implications of COVID-19. The general consensus within the debt industry now predicts an increase of cases to hit insolvency firms between February and summer 2021, dependant on further support and lockdown measures. However, the impact to those already struggling with rent arrears may be more severe this winter. Without further support for those on low incomes who are unable to pay their rent, the concern of thousands across the UK of how to continue rent payments and keep their homes this winter could be substantiated. If effective support isn’t provided, this winter could result in a significant increase of people being made homeless, in significant debt and rental arrears.