Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through our advice, support and legal services. And we campaign to make sure that, one day, no one will have to turn to us for help.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as a precautionary measure and in line with government guidance, in March 2020 we moved our face-to-face support to telephone advice. This means our online advice has become more important than ever in helping those with housing issues and whose right to a home is threatened.
We’ve seen a big increase in demand for our services since the coronavirus pandemic began. With the temporary ban on evictions having ended on 20th September, and the furlough scheme now extended to March ’21, we expect to see even more people with housing issues come to Shelter for advice.
The government has committed to doing more to protect renters, however the changing guidance and legislation to help stem the economic impact and protect private renters has resulted in confusion around what this means in practice. At Shelter, we our main priority remains to support those with housing needs, and we’ve been working harder than ever to ensure our online information and advice is as up-to-date as possible.
We have the latest information and guidance for people whose housing has been impacted by COVID-19, such as people who’ve accrued rent arrears due to losing their jobs or are threatened with illegal evictions.
While we’ve continued to see queries we’re familiar with, such as around disrepair and homelessness applications, we’ve also seen some new and more unusual queries such as ‘I can’t move into my new property because of lockdown/travel ban, so I am now liable for two rents’, or ‘I want to follow social distancing, therefore I am unable to get repairs done’, or ‘I am an essential worker and I am facing issues with my housemates, who want to self-isolate’.
We’ve seen an increase in queries now the eviction ban has ended. Those with rent arrears or financial problems caused or made worse by the pandemic are especially worried. As are private renters who’ve received a section 21 notice from their landlord. Most won’t face immediate eviction and for some court action won’t start until the spring but there’s still a lot of confusion.
On the day the eviction ban ended, visits to our coronavirus advice page soared by 79% when compared to the same day of the week before. Visits to our eviction advice pages also saw a large increase of 34%. We expect this increased demand for advice to continue throughout the autumn and winter.
Not only are we supporting people with housing needs, we’re also campaigning to ensure more protection and rights for renters and for the government to build more social housing. The pandemic has exposed deep inequalities in how we live and the urgent need for better housing. Hundreds of thousands of people have been struggling in overcrowded temporary accommodation, or expensive and insecure private rented homes. We can build a better future if investment in social housing is at the heart of our recovery. Social housing can provide the secure, good quality, affordable homes communities need to recover from the pandemic.
If you work with clients in need of housing advice, signpost them to Shelter’s free, regularly updated online advice for fast and reliable information. Our online advice has a wealth of resources, including guides and tools, videos, letter templates and a live webchat for people to quickly access the advice they need, whenever they need it.
Visit shelter.org.uk/coronavirus or search ‘Shelter housing advice’.