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New year, same arrears: How the pandemic is leaving private renters with unmanageable debt

5 January 2021

New year, same arrears: How the pandemic is leaving private renters with unmanageable debt [ 2.9 mb]

The problem

1 in 3 private renters have lost income because of the pandemic

Private renters have been hit hard by the pandemic. They’re disproportionately likely to have fallen into financial difficulty and also have less savings to use as a safety net.

As a result, many are struggling to pay their rent.

Half a million people are behind on their rent because of the pandemic 

58% of people who are currently behind on rent weren’t in arrears before the crisis. 

The average value of people’s rent arrears is £730. And for over half of private renters who are currently behind on rent, a £600 grant would be enough to lift them out of arrears.

Without support renters face unmanageable debt and the threat of eviction

Rent arrears, and the insecurity that comes with them, have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for individuals, families and the wider economy. Without targeted support and protection, private renters face a steep uphill battle to make it out of this crisis.

The impact


It would take 7 years for people we help with rent arrears to pay them off. 


Over 1 in 3 Tenants Voice panellists feel insecure about their ability to stay in their current tenancy, with many feeling worried about the possibility of being evicted and forced to leave.


Without financial support for private renters in arrears, consumer spending will reduce, hindering economic recovery.


The relentless financial and mental strain of arrears has a significant impact on renters’ wellbeing, making them less likely to self-isolate and more likely to experience mental health problems.


  • A legal ban on bailiff action and a pause on all possession proceedings during the national lockdown in England, and in tiers 2 and above, beyond 11 January

  • A national programme of loans and grants to help people in England who have fallen behind on rent due to the pandemic.