Young adults who are privately renting will be particularly vulnerable to losing income and potentially their jobs as the furlough scheme scales down, according to a survey.
Nearly one-quarter (24 per cent) of private renters aged 16 to 24 and more than one in four (27 per cent) of those aged 25 to 34 are reliant on the coronavirus job retention scheme, the research among tenants in England and Wales found.
The survey findings were published by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), which warned many of those reliant on the scheme could struggle to pay their rent as it winds down.
The coronavirus job retention scheme will close on 31 October.
Before then, the level of government contributions is gradually being reduced, while employer contributions gradually increase as the scheme winds down.
This has led to concerns more employers will start to lay off employees they can no longer afford to keep on.
The survey of more than 2,000 renters in May found 84 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds and 87 per cent of those aged 25 to 34 had been able to pay their rent as usual up to that point.
They said that, for example, advance loans provided to Universal Credit claimants to cover the waiting period to receive their first payment should instead be converted into grants.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, said: “Young renters have borne the brunt of the Covid crisis.
“Many have relied on the furlough scheme to enable them to pay their rent. As this support reduces there is a serious danger that they will struggle to meet their payments.”
He added: “The vast majority of landlords approached for help by their tenants have responded positively and that will continue to be the case as they do all they can to sustain tenancies.
“But both tenants and landlords need the security of knowing rents can continue to be paid, just as with mortgages and rents for social housing.
“Plans need to be made to ensure that there will be adequate support in place to enable all tenants to continue to afford their housing costs.”
Seyi Obakin, chief executive of youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, said: “There is now a wealth of evidence that the younger you are, the greater the economic impact of the pandemic will be.
“The number of young people contacting Centrepoint’s helpline has increased by almost 50 per cent since before the pandemic and our supported accommodation is stretched but we’ve yet to see clear leadership from ministers on how they soften the negative effects.
“That is why we urgently need to see more government money to help with renting and living costs for those young people facing unemployment or reduced incomes and a better support package to help those newly out of work stay economically active.”
He added: “There are no simple solutions here but business as usual is not good enough.
“We cannot leave young people to navigate this post-lockdown world alone.”
Jon Sparkes, Crisis chief executive, said: “In our society, everyone should be able to rent a safe, affordable home where they can thrive.
“So it’s extremely worrying that over the coming months we may see a wave of young people losing their homes, as government support is rolled back, unless further action is taken.”
He added: “We know that across the country thousands of young people are bracing themselves for the anxious months ahead as they struggle to pay high rents on reduced hours and low wages.
“This is set to become all the worse when the eviction ban comes to an end next month.
“It’s crucial that we now focus our attention on ensuring that thousands of renters get the help they need to stop them from being swept into homelessness.
“That’s why we’re urging the government to permanently invest in housing benefit and suspend the benefit cap, so that people can afford a safe and secure home.”
A government spokesperson said: “The government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic and prevent people from getting into financial hardship.
“We have introduced the furlough scheme to protect jobs, provided over £6.5bn to strengthen the welfare safety net, and introduced higher Local Housing Allowance rates.
“We have also provided protections to renters that have meant no-one has been forced from their home as a result of the pandemic.
“We’re working with the judiciary to provide appropriate protection to those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus when proceedings start again.”