Half of UK renters are worried about housing due to COVID-19

Jessica Bird

April 15, 2020

UK renters

Almost half (48%) of UK renters are concerned about the impact the COVID-19 crisis could have on their living situation, according to research by Opinium.

Almost three-fifths (58%) of renters who were employed before the crisis have had their employment impacted in some way.

Of those whose employment has been affected, 43% have struggled to pay rent, bills or for other essentials such as food.

A quarter (25%) have either had to voluntarily leave their home or request for their tenancy to end earlier than planned.

The majority (73%) of landlords are concerned their tenants will not be able to pay all or part of their rent, and 70% are worried tenants will vacate and leave them with an empty property.

One in eight (12%) of all renters have had to dip into savings to pay for day-to-day life, rising to 24% of those whose employment has been impacted.

Almost one in 10 (9%) of all UK renters have had to choose between paying rent and being able to afford other essentials such as food; this doubles to 18% among those whose work has been affected.

Around one in six (17%) UK renters have sought financial help, rising to 31% where employment has been affected; 13% have applied for Universal Credit and 11% have borrowed from friends and family.

Most renters would appreciate new policies to support them, such as having no energy cut offs for those who cannot pay their bill (82%), freezing rental increases (80%), advancing Universal Credit payments (76%) and freezing rents (74%).

Of the supports available already, while 65% are aware that the government has made £500m available for households experiencing financial hardship, 61% do not understand what that entails.

A further 43% are unaware that the government will increase the housing element of Universal Credit to cover the cheapest 30% of rents in an area.

A fifth (19%) are also unaware that new eviction proceedings have been banned for the next three months.

David Cox, chief executive at ARLA Propertymark, said: “It’s worrying to see that the vast majority of renters and landlords are concerned about rent payments.

“Unfortunately, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more people may see changes in their income which could leave them stressed about affording rent whilst providing for themselves and their families.

“However, there is lots of government support available that should allow tenants to continue to pay their rent and landlords to have an income if rent payments do stop.

“Clearly not enough is being done to explain and highlight these policies, but we would urge everyone to look into these and understand what help they may be eligible for.

“Both renters and landlords should take full advantage of the government schemes available during this difficult period.”

James Endersby, CEO at Opinium, added: “Our research shows that renters are finding it particularly tough.

“Many have found their employment situation has changed, but their rental payments still remain, and this is already becoming a struggle for some.

“A substantial number of renters have had to use savings or financial help to get by, and if we are in this predicament for the long term then their problems will only get worse.

“It’s clear that renters do not have the full perspective of their rights and entitlements that are crucial in guiding them through the outbreak, but these measures could make all the difference.”

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