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Private renters will face ‘winter of hardship’ after autumn statement

Campaigners had urged the government to cap private rents alongside social rents, which will be limited to a 7% rise

Ruby Lott-Lavigna
17 November 2022, 5.19pm

Demonstrators in London demanding renting reforms, October 2022


See Li/Picture Capital / Alamy Stock Photo

The government will provide no additional support to the millions of people who rent their homes in the UK – despite record rent increases as the country falls into a new recession.

Tenants’ rights groups warn that “ignored and let down” private renters face “a winter of hardship” after Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement contained no targeted support packages.

The chancellor’s statement came as UK inflation reached a 41-year high.

Hunt, who was appointed by former prime minister Liz Truss after her own disastrous mini-budget just a few weeks ago, announced tax increases, the building of a nuclear power plant, and an increase in the national minimum wage for over-23-year-olds from April next year.

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But despite calls from housing groups for a rent freeze and eviction ban – and the chancellor committing to “protect the vulnerable” – private renters will receive no support from the UK government.

Social tenants – who currently have rent increases capped at 1% above the soaring Consumer Price Index (CPI) – will instead have their rent increases capped at 7% year on year. Without the cap, increases could have topped 12% in 2023 – but, all the same, 7% was the least generous option considered by the government as part of its consultation on social rents earlier this year.

openDemocracy previously revealed that housing associations had lobbied the government not to cap social rents too low, while paying their executives nearly £300,000 a year each.

The government estimates capping social rents will save it £630m over five years by reducing the level of housing benefit it pays out. Private rents, however, will remain unregulated.

Yet according to October figures from HomeLet, the average private rent in the UK has risen by 10.6% compared to 12 months ago. After the mini-budget caused mortgage interest rates to spike, many landlords increased rents drastically – or evicted tenants if they had been forced to sell.

Despite the increasing pressure on private tenants, the government has refused to introduce rent caps or an eviction ban, like that seen in Scotland.

The likelihood of people falling into rent debt and subsequent eviction and homelessness is all too possible for many this winter

Anny Cullum, ACORN union

Tenants' rights groups say without further support, renters face increased risk of homelessness.

“Once again, renters have been ignored and let down by the government,” said Anny Cullum, policy and research officer at the union ACORN, told openDemocracy. “The lack of measures to support people with what is often their biggest monthly outgoing in today’s autumn statement is telling.

“With predictions that already soaring rents will rise even further in the coming months, the likelihood of people falling into rent debt and subsequent eviction and homelessness is all too possible for many this winter.”

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said private renters have been left “vulnerable to unaffordable rent increases” by the statement.

“Market rents have risen by 12% in the past year,” she said, “and it is very easy for landlords to raise the rent on their current tenants when they can threaten a no-fault eviction.”

Organisations have called for a freeze on rent increases – the highest on record – and an eviction ban.

“Nobody should lose their home as a result of the cost of living crisis,” said Cullum. “That’s why the government in England and Wales needs to implement a freeze on runaway rents during the crisis, and an immediate ban on evictions and mortgage repossessions.”

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