On Thursday (23rd September) the BBC reported the story of a couple facing eviction after falling into debt and rent arrears as a result of the covid pandemic. Now that the ban on evictions has ended, Marshall and Joanne – who fell through the net of support during the pandemic – have been served with an eviction notice.
At the start of the pandemic, the government implemented a ban on evictions in England and Wales to protect those who were most financially impacted by covid restrictions. This ban has now ended, and families who have been protected so far now face the threat of eviction.
As the pandemic began, former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick tweeted: ‘no-one should lose their home as a result of the coronavirus epidemic’. But that is precisely what is happening. Whilst there are currently no publicly available recent eviction statistics, a report by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that in a third of recent evictions the financial impact of covid was expressly mentioned.
Covid contributed to a third of recent evictions.
The current rental market is experiencing the demand for houses exceed supply. This means that private landlords and agents can select renters who they feel are in the most secure financial position. People with debt are likely to have poor credit scores, especially if any of their debts have been passed to collection. So, if an individual or a family is evicted because of covid debt, they are then more likely to struggle to find another home – compounding the damaging impacts of eviction.
This coming winter is shaping up to be incredibly challenging for hundreds of thousands of families in the UK. Gas prices are set to rise sky-high, the £20 a week cut to universal credit is due to come at the start of October and the recent increases to national insurance will impact lower earning families. With a report from Stepchange finding that 11 million people were in rental arrears at the start of this year, this vicious cocktail of factors promises to make their financial challenges even harder.
It’s time for a jubilee of debt relief
Reset the Debt has been calling for a jubilee of debt relief – a fund that would provide grants to pay off and cancel unavoidable debt accrued by households during the lockdown period. This would enable those families to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and empower them to move forward into a positive financial future.
This is already happening in Wales, with the Welsh government creating a £10million grant to help people in private accommodation and who have rent arrears as a result of the pandemic. If this can happen in Wales, then why not in the rest of the UK?
The long-term financial futures and well-being of hundreds of thousands of people are at stake. For many who have built up debt during the pandemic, there is no option but for the government to reset the debt.
You can read the full Reset the Debt report from 2020 here.