Government financial support for rent arrears in Winter 2021.
Guidance for Landlords and Tenants.
The government recently announced that it will make £65m available to support low income households who are in rent arrears, as a result of the pandemic. As a landlord or a tenant, what does this mean for you?
When will the rent arrears fund be available?
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities advises that the fund will be made available throughout the winter months and will be distributed amongst local authorities in England. Different amounts have been allocated to each local authority and it will be up to each one to decide which tenants will benefit. They will look at each application on a case-by-case basis.
What is the fund application process?
The tenant must apply to their local authority for assistance; not the landlord. Contact details can be found via the ‘Find your local council’ page on the government website or tenants could ask their landlord (or letting agent) for help in finding the contact details. If you are a tenant, you simply need to state that ‘you wish to apply for support from the £65m Tenant Fund announced by the government in October 2021’.
What information will the local authority need for a claim?
Details have not been confirmed yet but it is anticipated that applicants will need to provide evidence of rent arrears, income (including any benefits) and their personal circumstances i.e. if employed, if living alone or with a family etc. There may be more information required but, at the moment, there are no details available. Your local authority will be able to help at the time of application.
Is there anything landlords can do?
A landlord cannot apply on a tenant’s behalf but landlords are encouraged to let their tenants know about the fund if they are in rent arrears and if they are not already aware of its existence.
What happens if you are successful in gaining support from the fund, how will it be paid?
The payment, to cover rent arrears, will be paid direct to the existing landlord or, if the tenant is in the process of finding a new home, to the new landlord.
Is this the only support the government is offering?
No. There’s also the £500m Household Support Fund that the government launched in September 2021 that is designed to help vulnerable households across the country with the costs associated with day-to-day living. Of this, £421m will go to local authorities in England, £41m to the Scottish government, £25m to the Welsh Government and £14m for the Northern Ireland Executive. In England at least 50% of the funding will go to households with children.
There’s also a £310m Homelessness Prevention Grant - which combines and increases the previous Flexible Homelessness Support Grant and Homelessness Reduction Grant - and also £140m available through Discretionary Housing Payments, which can also be used to prevent evictions and help people find a new home.
What does this mean for landlords and tenants?
Despite the difficulties that some tenants may be experiencing, help could be available. Both landlords and tenants are urged to find out information from their local authority with the aim to ensure that any existing potential tenancy can continue.
Miranda Verschoyle, Lettings Director at Hawes & Co said: “This funding is a welcome addition to the measures taken to support low income households following the pandemic and to help them get back on their feet. We recommend that our landlords and tenants consider the fund if they are impacted by Covid related rent arrears.”
At Hawes & Co we’ll do all we can to help landlords and tenants - simply contact your local Hawes & Co branch.