News: Arrears to rocket if Universal Credit cut is pushed says charity

Thu, 23 Sep 21

A £360m ‘wall of rent debt’ built up during the pandemic, combined with cuts to Universal Credit, threatens to leave hundreds of thousands of tenants facing long-term housing insecurity and problem debt.

That’s the message from a new poll commissioned by charity StepChange.

Since March 2020, StepChange’s research has revealed a tale of two pandemics, with renters one of the groups most likely to have faced a prolonged loss of income or experienced a negative financial impact. 

Around half a million private tenants are now battling to stay on top of £360m rent arrears.

The polling shows how the Government’s planned £20 per week cut to Universal Credit threatens to escalate entrenched difficulties caused by the crisis and exacerbate a two-speed recovery.

The charity’s research shows 558,000 Universal Credit claimants in Covid rent arrears – including private and social renters – say the planned cut means they will struggle to pay existing rent debts over the next.

Despite the reopening of the economy, StepChange’s polling shows how rent debt levels have not budged over the past nine months and threaten to escalate as Covid support is withdrawn. 225,000 private renters now expect to lose their homes due to not being able to keep up with rents and many see no way out of entrenched pandemic-related difficulties.

StepChange is warning that unless the Government changes tack on Universal Credit and delivers an urgent package of targeted support, many private renters face long-term housing insecurity, and prolonged debt harm. 

This includes the threat of court action, long-term housing insecurity, homelessness and eviction.

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