'Thousands' of Ipswich renters could face eviction amid Covid crisis
- Credit: Archant
"Thousands of renters could face eviction in the coming months without further help" - that is the warning from Ipswich Citizens Advice after the Covid-19 crisis left many unable to pay bills.
To their relief, people in rent arrears have been given a temporary reprieve from losing their homes after the government extended a ban on bailiff evictions - which had due to be lifted on Monday (January 11).
That has bought those desperately trying to keep up with payments another six weeks. The only exceptions are in the most extreme cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation or extreme rent arrears equivalent to six months.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the move would help to "protect the most vulnerable renters".
Citizens Advice said many of those who had fallen behind on payments had not had rent arrears before February 2020 - but job losses and financial hardship had pushed them over the edge.
Citizens Advice Ipswich deputy manager, Nelleke van Helfteren, said: "We're seeing an increasing number of people come to us for help with rent arrears.
"This includes people who only six months ago had a well-paid job but were made redundant due to the pandemic and are finding it very difficult to find a job on a similar level.
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"In some cases, they have built up arrears despite having sought and followed advice to claim the correct benefits and reduce expenses.
"When this hasn’t been enough they have then had to go on to sell their phone and other belongings - or even gone without food - in an attempt to keep up payments on their rent and other bills."
Nicky Willshere, chief executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, added: “Half a million private renters remain behind on their rent, with the majority falling behind during the pandemic restrictions.
"Unlike people who own their homes, private tenants have had no structured way to defer payments but instead have had to try to keep up with their rent and bills as best they can in a time of great uncertainty and hardship.
“Even though many landlords are trying their best to support their tenants, thousands of renters could face eviction in the coming months without further help."
She said the government "should provide targeted support to help people escape the trap of rent arrears in the New Year”.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said it had made £180million more available for discretionary housing payments, which are administered by councils.