Debt charities write to Gove urging greater protection

Major debt advice charities and the Law Centres Network have concerns regarding the Renters (Reform) Bill. Their concerns are:

  1. Urgent Need for Reform: The charities urge Secretary of State Michael Gove to prioritize the Renters (Reform) Bill in the current parliamentary session, emphasizing the need for stronger protections for private renters facing financial difficulties.
  2. High Levels of Problem Debt Among Private Renters: New polling conducted by YouGov for StepChange Debt Charity indicates that private renters are twice as likely to be in problem debt compared to the average person. More than half of private renters report difficulty in keeping up with bills and credit commitments.
  3. Impact of Record High Rents: Record average private rents across the country are contributing to low financial resilience among private tenants, many of whom face additional vulnerabilities such as ill-health. Limited availability of socially rented homes exacerbates the situation.
  4. Automatic Right to Eviction for Rent Arrears: The Bill grants landlords an automatic right to evict private tenants if they are in two months or more of rent arrears, without offering support or seeking a repayment plan.
  5. Calls for Stronger Protections: The charities advocate for a new Tenancy Support Programme, similar to the Pre-Action Protocol for social tenants in rent arrears. This program would require landlords to take reasonable steps to support tenants in financial difficulty, including providing benefits advice and agreeing on affordable repayment plans for arrears. Judges would have discretion to suspend eviction proceedings if these steps are not taken.
  6. Addressing the Housing Affordability Crisis: The charities emphasize the importance of providing dignity and security to financially vulnerable private renters, many of whom should ideally be in socially rented homes.
  7. Need for Immediate Changes: The Money Advice Trust stresses the urgent need for changes to Ground 8A to reduce the threat of unnecessary evictions and align safeguards for private renters with those for mortgage holders and social tenants.

Overall, the charities are advocating for comprehensive reforms to the private rental sector to better protect tenants facing financial difficulties and ensure they are not unfairly evicted due to rent arrears.

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