Industry News Sally Walmsley 12/11/2020

Young forced to choose between rent debt and health

Young people are being forced to choose between racking up rent debts and risking their health due to rules limiting what they can claim for housing benefit.

Those under 35 who are now relying on benefit to pay their rent for the first time will find that support will only be available to cover the cost of a room in a shared house.

The National Residential Landlords Association is warning that this will force many young renters to choose between building unsustainable debts with all the anxieties to go with it or moving into cheaper, shared housing. Apart from forcing people to move home in the middle of restrictions, this could potentially involve living with strangers with all the health risks that this poses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to the Welfare Minister, Will Quince, the NRLA has called on the Government to urgently adopt the recommendations of the Social Security Advisory Committee and suspend the Shared Accommodation Rate rule. The NRLA argues that this should be for a period of at least a year.

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

“It is unacceptable that younger renters are being forced to choose between building debts or compromising their health during a pandemic.

“Whilst the vast majority of landlords have done everything they can to support renters whose finances have been hit due to the virus, it cannot be right that landlords and tenants are left to muddle through without greater support. 

“If money can be found to subsidise meals out, the Government must find the finances needed to support tenants, and in turn landlords, to pay off rent arrears, sustain tenancies and protect people’s health.”

The call comes as government statistics show a significant increase in the proportion of Universal Credit claimants in the younger age brackets.

In the four weeks to the 8th October, the proportion of claimants aged between 16 and 24 was just over 27 per cent, up from 21 per cent in four weeks to the 12th March.