Industry News Victoria Barker 22/12/2020

More than 800,000 renters in arrears due to Covid

Ministers need to act now to prevent the crisis engulfing the private rented sector.  

Over 800,000 private renters in England and Wales have built rent arrears since lockdown measures began according to estimates from new research published today. 

A survey of tenants for the National Residential Landlords Association by the research consultancy Dynata suggests that 7 per cent of private renters have built arrears due to Covid. Applied across the sector that would amount to 840,000 tenants. Whilst the average arrears were between £251 and £500, the survey finds that of those in arrears, 18% now have rent debts of more than £1,000. This would equate to over 150,000 renters. 

The survey finds that younger people are most likely to have been affected with 14 per cent of renters aged 18 to 24 and 10 per cent of those aged 25 to 34 having built arrears since March. 

The self-employed who rent were also most likely to be in arrears, with 17 per cent saying they had developed rent debts since March. 

Regionally, 11 per cent of renters in the West Midlands had built arrears since March the largest proportion of any region in England and Wales. This was followed by London where 9% of renters had accrued arrears.  

Responding to the findings, Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association said: 

“Our research highlights in stark terms the rent debt crisis now engulfing the rental market. 

“Whilst the vast majority of landlords have done everything possible to support tenants affected due to COVID-19, expecting them to muddle through without further support is hurting tenants as well as landlords. 

“Ministers need to accept that simply banning repossessions does nothing to keep tenants in their homes long term. In fact, it will achieve the complete opposite - kicking the can down the road just means larger debts piling up, creating a bigger problem for tenants and also for landlords.  

To sustain tenancies the Government needs to provide an urgent financial package to get rent debts built due to the pandemic paid off.”  

To keep tenants in their homes, the NRLA is renewing its call for a financial package to help struggling renters to pay off arrears built since lockdown measures began. This should include a mixture of government guaranteed, interest free, hardship loans and a boost to benefits for those relying on them rather than cutting this support as announced in the Spending Review.  



  • The market research agency, Dynata, surveyed 2,077 private renters in England and Wales between 17th November and 9th December 2020 for the NRLA. The NRLA’s report on the findings, together with its policy recommendations can be accessed at: