By Andy Winter, CEO of at Brighton Housing Trust, which runs an Advice Centre in Eastbourne
The government last week rejected a recommendation that it should develop a specific financial package to support tenants with rent arrears attributable to the pandemic. I have supported a call for a loan fund, as recommended by the Resolution Foundation and supported by the National Residential Landlord Association, which would assist in reducing homelessness preventing homelessness and an increase in rough sleeping.
The government justified its decision by saying that additional money was made available for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP).
It has now been announced that the government is cutting this DHP funding by more than a fifth. DHP funding was increased from £139.5 million £180 million in 2020/21 amid the pandemic. It is now being cut back to £140 million in 2021/22, a reduction of 22% and lower than the DHP budget in 2017/18 or 2018/19.
How shortsighted. Government had a perfect opportunity to set up a loans facility that, in time, would be repaid but, no, decided not to act when it could.
At our Brighton Advice Centre we have recently been receiving, on average, about three enquiries a day from people who said that they might lose their home. Last week, following some publicity, we took well over 20 calls a day and staff are bracing themselves for a deluge of calls in the weeks ahead given that most tenants in arrears have yet to receive anything in writing.
If you are in arrears, speak to your landlord to explain your situation and tell them how and when you expect to be able to clear your arrears. The period of the eviction moratorium was not a ‘rent holiday’. Any arrears will still need to be paid and non-payment is a grounds for a landlord gaining possession of your home.
Act early, speak to your landlord, get advice.