Protecting rough sleepers and renters: Interim Report Contents


Rough sleepers are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Prolonged rough sleeping causes significant impacts on mental and physical wellbeing, as well as increasing a person’s chances of being a victim of crime and violence. The streets are dangerous at the best of times, and we are far from those.

Renters are much more likely to suffer from the immediate economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, compared to homeowners. Less than half of rents are being collected on time. Around 1.7 million of 11 million private renters might be unemployed by the end of July.

This report sets out how these vulnerable groups can be protected against the impact of coronavirus. The Government must take the following six measures to protect rough sleepers and renters:

The Government’s taskforce must take advantage of this golden opportunity to ensure every single person taken from the streets does not return to rough sleeping. The Government must estimate the cost of a housing-led solution with appropriate wrap-around support, likely to be at least £100m a year, and provide this as a dedicated funding stream to councils.

We recommend that the Government should guarantee it will compensate councils for provision offered to rough sleepers with no recourse to public funds as a result of the current crisis. The Government needs to urgently publish guidance on councils’ use of discretion in these circumstances and clarify what people can or cannot claim when they have no recourse to public funds.

The Government needs to act to boost the immediate availability of appropriate supported housing, by providing targeted grant funding for councils and housing associations to acquire properties, using the National Clearing House Scheme from 2008 as a starting point. We also ask the Government to remove restrictions on Right to Buy receipts to provide councils with more flexibility.

Legislating to protect tenants from the minority of landlords lacking compassion does not invalidate the premise that most landlords behave in good faith; it protects those at the sharp edge of the crisis from facing homelessness. We recommend the Government amends the 1985 Housing Act to allow judges to use discretion under section 21 and mandatory ground 8 of section 8 where a tenant is in rent arrears due to the coronavirus crisis. The Government should introduce a short Bill as soon as possible, such as we have proposed in the Appendix.

The insecurity of tenants has been put into sharp relief by the coronavirus crisis, so it is important that the Government moves the Renters’ Reform Bill up its legislative agenda.

If it is the Government’s intention to ensure tenants can pay rents by subsidising their income through the benefit system, it must be aware if shortfalls exist and take further action.

By the usual time for a response—in July—the chance to implement our recommendations will have been lost.

Published: 22 May 2020