COMMENT: Genuine cases of hardship need to be identified

There have been many issues caused by Covid, but one of the most concerning has to be people losing the roof over their heads.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 12:00 am

We report today how families struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic are being ordered to hand back the keys.

As tenants have got deeper into debt, they've fallen behind with rental payments and are being taken to courts by landlords seeking repossession.

In one case, a mother-of-three from Gosport has told how she contemplated suicide at the thought of being homeless after she and her children were served with a notice to quit.

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Figures show that, as of last month, 5,663 Portsmouth City Council tenants – including many in Leigh Park and Wecock Farm – owed £1.98m in rent. This compares to £1.33m owed in March 2018.

In Gosport, it has gone from 510 people owing £210,000 in 2018 to 997 people owing £367,837 now. In Fareham, £558,069 is owed by 804 people, compared to arrears totalling £326,665 in 2019.

The fear has to be that financial worries will affect even more people when the furlough scheme comes to an end and Universal Credit is cut.

Meanwhile a backlog of court cases will also inflate the figures once the system catches up.

We understand that there are those who bring eviction on themselves by their behaviour.

We also realise that for many landlords, rent is an important part of their own income, they have mortgages to cover and they should be able to take action if it's not paid - particularly by those who have used the courts shutdown to get away with 'playing the system'.

But there has to be concern about those who have found themselves struggling to pay through no fault of their own.

Councils and landlords should do all they can to identify genuine cases of hardship and work with these tenants to find a solution that does not leave them without a home.