Reading Borough Council has launched two new online resources to support landlords and their tenants and help reduce the possibility of evictions in the borough.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus Act 2020 was passed to protect tenants, which meant landlords had to give six months’ notice before starting possession proceedings. On 1st June this was lowered to four months’ notice in most cases, and from 1st August will be reduced again, leading to concerns of a growth in evictions, with many people struggling to secure alternative accommodation and facing homelessness.
With a large private rented sector, some residents are likely to have experienced difficulties in maintaining their rent payments, rendering them vulnerable to eviction. In addition, as with the wider population, during lockdown tenants will have experienced difficulties with their emotional wellbeing and mental health, pressures on relationships and relationship breakdowns, and domestic abuse that are also covered in the new advice too.
Click Before You Evict (www.reading.gov.uk/cbye) provides assistance for landlords, containing a wealth of information to address issues that may otherwise lead to significant problems with a tenancy, and which could lead to an eviction.
It illustrates that in many cases there are often simple ways to address issues such as rent arrears and late payments, disputes over damp and mould or mess and damage, or anti-social behaviour. Click Before You Evict also signposts tenants and landlords to appropriate help and support within the local community, where intervention and further advice is needed. In addition, there are specific pages for tenants which can be downloaded and handed to them as fact sheets if they don’t have access to a computer or smart phone. There are also videos with optional subtitles in a number of different languages.
Money Matters (www.reading.gov.uk/money-matters) gives helpful advice to any residents who are struggling with their finances, from difficulties in paying their rent to putting food on the table. The website will help them to find the right advice and support they need.
According to the Financial Conduct Authority Financial Lives 2020 Survey, only 1.7m people accessed debt advice between March and October 2020, even though 6.8m people may have benefited from it. Two of the main barriers were embarrassment and the lack of awareness that free services exist to help; the Money Matters website aims to negate both of those issues.
Cllr Ellie Emberson, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Housing, said:
“Our role is to help and protect the rights of all residents in Reading to decent housing and the security of having somewhere to call home. The reduction of notice periods is a cause for concern, but our diligent Housing team are working hard to minimise the effect this may have. We have brought together all available support and advice in one place to offer advice to landlords and make it easier for all residents who may be struggling with their money to get the help they need. We know money advice and early intervention work improves people’s quality of life and life chances. We all struggle from time to time and want people to know they are not alone, help is out there”.