Nearly a quarter of a million private renters in England are at risk of losing their homes following the end of eviction bans in August, according to estimates from a leading UK housing charity on Monday.
A survey by Shelter discovered that 3% of adults in the private rented sector have fallen into arrears since the start of coronavirus pandemic.
Based on YouGov polling of over 1,000 private renters across England from 4 to 11 June, the study estimated that 227,000 renters across the UK have fallen behind with their monthly payments and could lose their homes when the government ban on evictions comes to an end on 23 August.
Once the block on landlords is removed, those who have accrued owed debt of up eight weeks or more can be automatically evicted, as well as being at risk of Section 21 “no fault” evictions, according to Shelter.
“The financial chaos of Covid-19 means that many private renters are in danger of being evicted when the current ban lifts", said Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter.
“The minute the evictions ban lifts, the 230,000 already behind with their rent could be up for automatic eviction if they’ve built up eight weeks worth of arrears. And judges will be powerless to help them", she added.
“That’s more than the entire population of Portsmouth at risk of losing their homes. And let’s not forget: this pandemic is not over.”
She called for judges to be given powers to ensure that no renter is automatically evicted, and to consider the unique impact of the coronavirus.
The charity found nearly a third (31%) of renters feel more depressed and anxious about their housing situation. The same proportion of renters said they are having sleepless nights.
They also discovered that nearly a third (31%) of renters are feeling more depressed and anxious about their stability in accommodation and the same amount said they are having sleepless nights.
Chris Norris, policy director for the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) said that their surveys showed that a "vast majority of landlords" have been doing all they can to keep people housed throughout the pandemic.
"Our recently published guidance supports tenants and landlords to hold discussions about how to address rent arrears and sustain tenancies", he added.
“It is important though to distinguish between tenants affected by Covid-19 and those who were building rent arrears before lockdown, sometimes for several months and sometimes wilfully.
He said that the latter should be "the priority" for the courts, along with instances of tenants committing anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.
In March the government introduced emergency lockdown measures in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. This was brought in alongside an unprecedented support package that was introduced to support those who were no longer in work as well as higher Local Housing Allowance rates to cover the lowest 30% of rents.
As the United Kingdom looks to release lockdown measures, the spending packages will also be scaled back, with the government's furlough scheme poised to end in October.