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Imposing Rent waivers. First, let’s ditch the idea that this would be free. Interfering with contractual rights to payment would be a straightfoward breach of Article 1 Protocol 1 of the charter of Human Rights, unless there was compensation. So the State would have to pay. 1/
How much? Well that would depend. A general waiver of rents, as some have proposed, would cost some £6.4 Billion a month, £4.4 Billion of that to private landlords. As a comparison, the total NHS budget is £11 Billion per month. 2/
Of course a general waiver would be deeply regressive, giving the biggest benefit to those who don’t need it. Free money for the already reasonably well off. It would also be the largest ever single transfer of public money to private landlords. 3/
I’ve not seen anyone considering the broader impact of rent waiver without full compensation from the State, either. Housing Associations funding, borrowing, and build plans are based on rent income streams. Remove a chunk of that income and HAs could go bust, and 4/
certainly have immediate problems for new build plans, maintenance and obtaining new funding. Councils rely on rent income for the Housing Revenue Account, which funds maintenance and new build, and against which they borrow. Same problems. 5/
Most private landlords have 1 to 3 properties. Small scale. While a degree of arrears is a business risk, the enforced removal of all rent income for an unspecified period of time is not sustainable. Whatever long terms plans may be, (councils buying the stock, etc etc) 6/
this would create a short term crisis, and, inevitably evictions. (Let alone broader financial problems. 2008 started with securitised mortgages after all). This does not seem like a good short term plan. 7/
So, let’s assume a general waiver can be agreed to be a silly idea, even before we get to practicalities. Next up is the apparently more interesting idea of targeted waivers of arrears. But nobody is yet saying how these would work. 8/
Immediate questions that need answers are;
What would be the criteria for receiving a waiver of arrears? Income level?
Proof of inability to meet rent?
Arrears related to effects of Covid, or just any arrears?
What period would this cover, from when &, vitally, till when?
What would happen about payments of LHA/HB/UC already received if these covered the period of arrears? Would they have to be paid back?
And, of course, what are the estimates of the numbers of people and amount of arrears involved - how much would it cost?
In short, it is something that *might* be do-able and viable. But it is better to be looked at when the dust has settled and we know if it is required and the scale of it. It is not a good emergency proposal, where the first concern has to be people not losing their homes. 11/11
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