Industry News Victoria Barker 19/03/2024

Debt Awareness Week 2024: Support for those in the private rented sector

The annual Debt Awareness Week campaign, organised by charity StepChange, takes place this week, with landlords encouraged to support tenants if they are facing financial difficulties. 

The campaign, now in its 10th year, has a focus this year of supporting people to get debt advice.  

What to do as a landlord if your tenant is struggling to pay rent 

Having ended 2023 in a technical recession, the UK economy showed modest signs of recovery in January. But the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.

The NRLA has recently updated its guidance for landlords on how landlords can help support tenants to manage rent arrears. 

The guidance reiterates the importance of good communication between landlords and tenants when it comes to managing arrears, and the benefits of having conversations early on. 

The guidance also includes useful information on managing arrears payments, agreeing a repayment plan, and breathing space. 

Grants available 

As well as the above resources, the NRLA also runs an eClassroom training course for landlords on how to Manage Rent Arrears.  

This one-day course goes into detail about practical steps you can take to help a tenant in rent arrears, including examples with different levels of arrears, and you will also learn more about grants and local authority funding available to tenants to help pay towards rent arrears. 

The next date for this eClassroom course is Friday 22 March and then Friday 10 May.

Universal Credit and Local Housing Allowance 

It is also worthwhile noting that if you have tenants who are experiencing financial difficulties, they may be eligible for housing benefit or Universal Credit. If it is established that a tenant is entitled to receive housing support, they will be able to claim up to a maximum of the thirtieth percentile of market rents in the area. 

Housing benefit freeze to end 

Since 2019, there has been a freeze on Local Housing Allowance rates. The freeze meant rates remained aligned to local market rents as they were in September 2019, and were not increased with inflation or rising rents. 

However, following extensive campaigning by Step Change, the NRLA and several other charities and organisations, the Government announced the four-year cash freeze in LHA rates will end this April. 

Get more support for dealing with debt 

StepChange has a free online debt advice tool which is available 24 hours a day, and can give users practical, expert advice on how to deal with money worries. Click here to learn more. 

The Government’s Universal Credit website also has practical advice for landlords on supporting tenants to make a claim for Universal Credit.