Pandemic has left many Mansfield and Ashfield private tenants on Universal Credit struggling to pay rent

Private tenants in Mansfield and Ashfield who are claiming universal credit could be left struggling to cover their monthly rent, analysis suggests.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 10:36 am

The housing element of universal credit is calculated based on broad rental market areas and usually covers the bottom 30 per cent of rents in an area for a given property size.

But housing charity Shelter says hundreds of thousands of private renters across England are now finding it hard to cover their rent as the pandemic hits their earnings and benefits don’t cover the costs.

The latest Office for National Statistics figures show that, during the 12 months to September last year, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom property was £497 in Mansfield and £504 in Ashfield.

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Covid-19 has left many private tenants in Mansfield and Ashfield on universal credit struggling to pay rent

But households assessed as requiring two bedrooms could only be entitled to around £450 per month in 2020-21, which would leave the average renter £47 short in Mansfield and £54 short in Ashsfield.

The charity says more than two in five private renting households now need help with housing benefit, which it says is ‘clear proof that there are just not enough genuinely affordable homes to go around’.

Polly Neate, Shelter chief executive, said: “Hundreds of thousands of private renters have found themselves struggling to pay their rent during the pandemic because they’ve lost income.

"Many have applied for housing benefit in a bid to safeguard their home, only to find the support available doesn’t come close to covering their costs – especially if they are paying average rents.

"Countless families are falling into debt and rent arrears as a result.

"Worse yet, the benefit cap means some families in financial dire straits are losing out on the help they need as this cruel and unnecessary cap is fixed regardless of people’s actual rent costs."

The Government should review housing benefit levels to stop people becoming homeless and scrap the benefit cap, she added.

A government spokesman said: “We have taken unprecedented action to protect renters during this pandemic, including increasing Local Housing Allowance rates – benefiting more than one million households by £600 a year on average.

“We have also changed the law in England to ensure no evictions are expected until January 25 at the earliest.”