Landlords: The Front Line of Coronavirus Greed


End rent now: a protestor in Los Angeles.

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As the coronavirus continues to cripple the economy, it is clear to anyone paying attention — a situation not encouraged by either our political leaders or the mainstream media — that its disastrous effects are extremely unevenly distributed.

While some people are working from home on 100% pay, others — the essential workers of the NHS, pharmacists, those in the food industry, postal workers and other delivery people, public transport workers, and many others — have continued to work, often at severe risk to their health, because of the government’s inability to provide proper PPE or a coherent testing system. Other workers, meanwhile, have been furloughed on 80% of pay (up to £2,500 a month), while another huge group of former workers have been summarily laid off, and have been required to apply for Universal Credit, a humiliating process that also involves the requirement to try to survive on less than £100 a week.

While those on Universal Credit receive support in paying their rent, and one of the government’s first moves, when the lockdown began, was to secure mortgage holidays for homeowners, no such support exists elsewhere in the economy for those who are renting. This is a disaster both for businesses and for those living in properties owned by landlords and not receiving housing benefit, as there has been no suggestion from the government, at any time over the last seven weeks, that landlords should share everyone else’s pain.

Sadly, this is typical of the way that governments behave, because, for the last 20-odd years, the ownership of property, whether of homes or commercial properties, has conferred on owners the right to participate in a feeding frenzy of greed, and, moreover, to see themselves as both superior and uniquely entitled to make as much money as they can get away with, with little or no thought given to those who are exploited as a result.

The result of this mentality, as the economy has crashed, and millions of people have lost their incomes or seen their incomes cut, and numerous businesses have been forced to shut their doors to the public, is that those struggling to pay for their landlords’ sense of self-entitlement are, in a domestic context, either paying most of their income in rent, or are likely to be made homeless, and, in a business context, are likely to go bust.

It’s possible that there will have to be reckoning when, after the worst of this crisis is over, the streets are full of homeless families, and shops, pubs, restaurants, theatres and offices are all shut and boarded up because no one can actually afford to run businesses any more, but it would be reassuring if there were efforts to prevent this total collapse by reining in the self-entitled greed of landowners, homeowners and landlords sooner rather than later.

Private renters’ woes

On the domestic front, to give you some idea of the extent to which those living in privately rented property are being affected by the combination of the coronavirus and their landlords’ undiminished greed, startling news has emerged via Ome, a company that is trying to rethink rental deposits, about the extent to which suffering workers are still being fleeced by their landlords. The company undertook research into how furloughed workers are coping, and discovered that, prior to the lockdown, the average tenant in the UK “was paying 47% of their monthly net income to cover the cost of renting”, an amount that has increased to 57%, an increase of 10%.

In London, meanwhile, the research revealed that, prior to the lockdown, “rent already accounted for 64% of the average monthly net income”, and that this has increased to 85%, an increase of 21%.

The research also indicated that the highest change in the percentage of income paid in rent was in Kensington and Chelsea, “where a furlough reduction in monthly income means renting now accounts for 152% of the average wage, a huge jump of 94%”. Other shocking increases were noted in “Westminster (+76%), Camden (+52%), Richmond (+43%), Hammersmith and Fulham (+40%) and Wandsworth (+39%)”, with rent “now accounting for upward of 93% of income for those on furlough.”

In order to try to protect renters to some extent, the government sought to prevent evictions for three months when the lockdown started, but that much-trumpeted ban seems, in reality, to have been toothless, as Amelia Gentleman of the Guardian recently exposed shocking stories of hospitality workers in London who were almost immediately made homeless after the lockdown began, because they lost their jobs overnight and then couldn’t pay their rent, and were evicted and are now living on the streets.

Beyond these stories, many evictions have indeed been put on hold, but only for a limited time. As Joe Beswick of the New Economics Foundation pointed out in a Guardian article on May 12, “The suspension is scheduled to end in mid-June, and has not been extended.” Beswick pointed out that “Citizens Advice found last week that 2.6 million private renters have already missed, or expect to miss, a rent payment due to the crisis”, and added:

For thousands of renters who’ve lost their income but are still required to pay rent, eviction could come quickly once the suspension is lifted. In the words of Ghazal, a member of the London Renters Union: “I’ve lost all my work because of the pandemic. My landlord won’t give me a rent reduction and I’m worried that this means I will be forced out.” London Councils, the representative body of the city’s local authorities, has warned of an “avalanche” of evictions coming down the line.

Beswick noted how, last weekend, the Labour party announced a “five-point plan” to protect renters, which “extends the eviction suspension by six months, gives renters two years to pay off any rent arrears built up during the crisis, and asks the government to consider a temporary increase to housing benefit”, but as he explains,  “even this is unlikely to be enough, and involves plunging tenants into debt to protect landlords’ income streams.”

As he proceeded to explain, “With the Bank of England contemplating the worst recession in 300 years, renters’ incomes are unlikely to bounce back once lockdown lifts, and the impact of the crisis on people’s ability to pay rent will be here to stay. If we are to protect renters, we need to solve the problem of rent.”

He added, “Under Labour’s plan, a renter who missed three payments of the average monthly rent in England (£867 a month) would find themselves paying £108 extra every month for the next two years”, an extra cost that many renters will be unable to afford. Instead, as NEF has recently proposed, the best answer — indeed, the only way to avoid a potential tsunami of homelessness — “is to temporarily suspend rents.”

For more on the housing rental crisis, see this Independent article about how students are taking on rapacious landlords, who are refusing to write off rents, even for students whose courses have been cancelled, by embarking on rent strikes, a course of action that other renters need to keep a close eye on.

Meltdown in the hospitality sector

In the business sector, meanwhile, the same problem — of landlords seeking to extract money from tenants that they simply don’t have — threatens to wipe out an extraordinary number of businesses unless some sort of enactment of shared pain takes place.

Restaurants have been making this clear since the lockdown began, with award-winning chef Yotam Ottolenghi warning in the Guardian on April 11 that the coronavirus will destroy the UK restaurant industry without assistance — particularly with regard to rents. As he noted:

Thanks to the government-funded furlough scheme, we are fortunate enough to be able to pay our staff while they are at home. There are, however, other serious issues, the most burning of which is rent. Though some landlords have made private arrangements with tenants to forgo rent payments for a certain period, most are demanding their quarterly transfers. For businesses with zero income, this is a kiss of death. Accumulating debt now, when we are not operating, will severely hamper our ability to re-establish businesses that pay salaries, taxes, bills and rents. For many, it will simply mean that they cannot renew trading — this would be a devastating and totally unnecessary outcome. For the lucky ones, it will mean that they hang on by the skin of their teeth, but will not have enough capital to expand and create more jobs, which will be so sorely needed when this crisis is over.

For more on the restaurant crisis, see Jay Rayner’s Observer article, ‘Will Britain’s restaurants survive coronavirus?’ and this article on the ‘Eater London’ website, detailing how a number of restaurant owners have “asked the government to consider a nine-month rent-free period” to save their businesses. Rayner, following up on Ottolenghi’s position, explained how Criterion Capital, “which owns large slabs of property around London’s Leicester Square”, had been threatening Caffe Concerto with a winding up order, because it had not paid rent on one of its sites, and noted that Andrew Sell of Criterion told the FT, “We are driven to take such action because we are a business that has an obligation to our lenders, to collect rent and meet their demands for interest payment to be made on time.” He added that, as he saw it, “The property industry is being treated as the nation’s bank”, which is a very un-generous position.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of the industry body UK Hospitality, said that she had “heard repeated stories of restaurant owners facing issues of this sort”, explaining, with some accuracy, “Too many landlords, banks and insurance companies are simply not sharing the pain of this.”

Elsewhere in the hospitality industry, pubs are also facing a bleak future. As the Guardian explained on May 10, “[w]ith only one of the big six landlords cancelling rents”, publicans are fearful about their future.

Already suffering from “ties”, an “ancient but controversial deal under which pubs buy their beer at inflated prices from the business that owns their property”, supposedly in exchange for lower rents, publicans are now finding that “nearly all of the major pub companies have refused to cancel rents, opting to defer their demands or offer a discounted rate instead.”

Edward Anderson, who runs three pubs in Cheltenham, told the Guardian, “It’s just debt that we can’t repay when we reopen.” His landlords had “offered to postpone the rent bill”, but that wasn’t enough. As the Guardian added, “rents are set based on a pub’s ‘fair, maintainable trade’, in other words the turnover it expects to make in a year. But while takings have fallen off a cliff overnight, rent reassessments take place only every five years, meaning that when those rent demands resume, there will be less in the till to honour them with.”

Dave Law, who runs the Eagle Ale House near London’s Clapham Common, told the Guardian, “We need rent to be cancelled during the period. We’re being forced to pay based on turnover that we can’t make because of government decree. Rents are already inflated and when we come out of this, we’re going to be in a recession.” As the Guardian added, “Like Anderson, he fears he won’t be able to recoup his lockdown losses unless pubcos step up and share more of the pain.”

So what does the future hold? Will landlords recognise the scale of the crisis facing their tenants, or will we have to wait until as I suggested above, “the streets are full of homeless families, and shops, pubs, restaurants, theatres and offices are all shut and boarded up because no one can actually afford to run businesses any more”?

I fervently hope not.

Note: For what’s happening in the US, see ‘Cancel the Rent’, a brand-new article in the New Yorker.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

46 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, looking at the impact of the coronavirus, with a particular focus on rental problems, both in a domestic context, in which furloughed workers, and those suddenly laid off, are facing unprecedented problems paying their rent, but have received no help from the government, and, in a business context, with numerous businesses, including restaurants and pubs, calling for rents to be suspended to prevent them from going under.

    Noticeably, while the government suggested that there would be a temporary ban on evictions, they have done nothing to insist that landlords – whether in a domestic or a business context – share the pain that they tenants are experiencing. As I explain, unless steps are taken to suspend rents, we won’t get to appreciate quite how damaging this is until “the streets are full of homeless families, and shops, pubs, restaurants, theatres and offices are all shut and boarded up because no one can actually afford to run businesses any more.”

    Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that – and let’s also think seriously about how we can make sure it doesn’t.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard Matz wrote:

    “[Landlords] are the only one of the three orders whose revenue costs them neither labour nor care, but comes to them, as it were, of its own accord, and independent of any plan or project of their own. That indolence, which is the natural effect of the ease and security of their situation, renders them too often, not only ignorant, but incapable of that application of mind” – Adam Smith – ‘The Wealth of Nations’ 1776

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    A very appropriate quote, Richard. Thanks.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Paul Burnham wrote:

    All the classical economists loathed rent!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    How nice to recall a time when it wasn’t almost universally acclaimed as a sign of a life successfully managed, Paul, as it is now, undertaken with such astonishing self-deception as though the collection of rent is some sort of victimless crime.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Dez Mundie wrote:

    Thanks Andy

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Dez. Good to hear from you.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Ruth Gilbert wrote:

    Important focus, Andy – you’ll be accused of scaremongering next. Like any of us apparently poking holes in what actually are the terrifyingly inherent chasms within current Tory murderous ideology and practices.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Ruth. There’s far too little analysis, in general. The mainstream media have almost entirely failed to robustly question what they’re being told, as usual, and I think many, many people are too overwhelmed by it all to focus on asking necessary questions.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Conrad Murray wrote:

    I agree with you Andy. I almost find it hard to think about all of this. There is no one sticking up for renters at all! Why isn’t Starmer saying anything ?? FFS

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Sadly, I think, Conrad, Starmer is fundamentally part of the establishment, hence the notion that the only responsible course of action is to call for rents to be deferred, rather than written off. Do the PLP have no idea of how many people – and businesses – operate on very tight margins, and won’t have anything left over to pay back landlords for when they couldn’t work because of the lockdown?

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Conrad Murray wrote:

    Andy, it is SO DIRE. Argh. I HATE Starmer. Wish we had Corbyn back. Feels like its just going to be the people that are going to be able to change things.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    We may have to, Conrad. The world has been shaken up so badly, and our leaders are generally so inept, that we can’t just sit back and trust them to do the right thing. I fear, however, that far too many people are overwhelmed by it all, and will just want to someone to put it all back together for them.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Conrad Murray wrote:

    I honestly can’t believe all the praise that Boris is getting. No one is holding him to account. It’s awful. The housing situation is one of the number one problems in this country! It is a basic need. It is so sad.I feel helpless and are we all going to be homeless in a year???

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    We’ll have to fight back if they don’t do the right thing, Conrad. Our leaders want to put everything back as it was before, but it’s clear that that isn’t going to happen. There are going to be huge numbers of unemployed people compared to two months ago, unable to maintain the idiotically expensive cost of living that was in place before the virus hit, and which was servicing all the fat cats driving round all day not having to actually work because they’d become the leeches on other people’s toil. The world has changed.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Conrad Murray wrote:

    Man, I hope so. I’m ready to fight these f*ckers!

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    🙂 Conrad!

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevi Brannelly wrote:

    same in nyc they have put a hold on evictions, but that only delays the inevitable, 2 3 4 5 months from now when it ends people will not have 3 4 5 6 mo cumulative rent and will be evicted en masse. landlords seem to be invulnerable, everyone else needs to take a hit for the team, but they continue to rack up 100% of their receivables. Even though in ny many of them have illegally taken tens of thousands of apts out of rent regulation and banked millions.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    There needs to be a reckoning, then, Kevi. We can’t have an economic meltdown this severe that doesn’t inflict pain equally. If our leaders insist on massively unjust policies, they may meet resistance that they thought had been crushed out of us.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevi Brannelly wrote:

    totally agree and hope so but to the extent that the ballot box is the answer I hold little hope

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Likewise here, Kevi. All our politicians are fundamentally part of the problem, wedded to the capitalist status quo that the virus has completely derailed. Yesterday I was cycling around the empty City of London – our equivalent of Wall Street, the financial services centre of the UK, the home of the swaggering, self-declared ‘Masters of the Universe’, and it’s all shut down because of a virus, with no sign that our leaders have any interest in working out how to contain it. “Business as usual” is very fundamentally broken.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevi Brannelly wrote:

    how are you my friend! can you believe that things can get worse? wtf

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    So yeah, I’m OK, Kevi. We’re all well. My wife is working remotely, still fully employed, I can get by, and have been cycling and taking photos of empty London every day, and my son is so creative that he’s able to entertain himself – even if there are no more Beatbox Academy shows for the foreseeable future. So we’re amongst the lucky ones.
    But the world our swaggering idiot leaders thought was immortal and invincible and invulnerable is falling apart, and I think we’re going to have to find a way to make sense of that, because our leaders can’t and won’t …

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    How are you, Kevi? It’s generally been quite locked down here – households staying in, minding their own business, with a little bit, recently, of people dropping by and chatting in the street, safely socially distanced. Now we’re going to have to work out, I think, how we can socialise a bit more while being two meters apart. Can we play a gig to a small audience of people two meters apart? Can we have a small party?
    The distance is everything, I think. It’s amazing how, genuinely, most people have taken it on board, despite the inevitable “young people in parks” stuff, and the less noticed “people forced to work unsafely” scenarios, and that’s stopped our streets being overrun with corpses, but what now? Given that, er, “normal” life simply isn’t possible right now, how do we start safely socialising, because otherwise we’re going to start going a bit mad.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard Matz wrote:

    Please support and publicise these groups

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Richard!

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Conrad Murray wrote:

    Andy, sorry for the ranty posts! Just having a mad one! ❤️

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    No worries, Conrad. We’re going to get screwed over if we don’t speak out about what needs to be talked about, and if we aren’t prepared to organise. As far as I’m concerned, proper, self-righteous anger is a part of that, and, in fact, if people aren’t angry, they aren’t paying attention. 😉

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevi Brannelly wrote, in response to 24, above:

    Andy, I’m okay – working remotely through the end of August. It’s a temporary gig but I’m quite enjoying it. And it sounds very much like here. People have been generally pretty good even wearing masks which I didn’t think New Yorkers would ever do. But at least in the city everything is still going to be shut down unless essential. So restaurants bars music venues everything is still on lockdown.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    And people are nervous, Kevi. I understand that some young people are finding it extremely hard, because, you know, they want to be dancing in a sweaty basement together, and their death rate is so very low, and I’ve thought from the beginning that if young people didn’t meet older/vulnerable people, it would be helpful to let them find some way to get together, but for people who are no longer burning with extreme youth there’s fundamentally much more insecurity. Will we return to the high streets to start shopping again? Will we eat in socially distanced restaurants? Can we go to the theatre and sit two meters apart? So many questions that we should at least be discussing rather than just letting our generally useless leaders and media decide what should be discussed.

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Pam Arnold wrote:

    How are landlords invulnerable when tenants stop paying rent … I am talking about the lone renter who relies on his flat upstairs to survive himself and pay his mortgage, on the flat upstairs? Not every landlord is a Rachman. I have the odd friend with one flat who may now sell it because people have stopped paying rent and they cannot fulfill their mortgages … so one flat less … means a scarcity pushing up rents. We should be encouraging people to rent out surely … I speak as a rentee!

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Not all landlords are particularly greedy, Pam, but the entire system is. A housing bubble maintained for over 20 years means that a so-called fair and decent rent that enables people we know who have buy-to-let properties to sleep easily in their beds isn’t actually fair and decent at all. It takes up perhaps 40% – or, in London, more – of someone’s income. Now that so many jobs are gone it’s simply not sustainable, and rents need to come down, but how can they when so many landlords have such expensive mortgages to service? The whole system needs to crash, and I don’t know how that’s going to happen without causing chaos for landlords. But if it doesn’t, then the pain is going to be borne by tenants, who will end up homeless.

    And it’s also not helpful to consider the overheated domestic rental market without also thinking of the commercial market, which does the same thing to businesses, and also needs a hatchet taking to it.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Jayne Sparks wrote:

    Thanks for putting into words something that has been bothering me.

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m glad I was able to do so, Jayne. Good to hear from you.

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Damien Morrison wrote:

    Remember when the hopeless idiot David Cameron said landlords would reduce their rents lol of course they didn’t … There is no way on gods earth that here in the UK landlords are going to give anybody a rent holiday if anything from wot I’m hearing landlords lettings agency’s estate agents debt company’s are harassing even more they are literally harassing making threats texting or phoning every other day … most people are less than a month away from homelessness you need here in London a minimum of £2.000 per month to pay rent, bills, travel that doesn’t include food or clothing as for the provincials rents might be cheaper but the wages are lower and there’s no work this is the result of 40 years of political vandalism destroying all industry in this country resulting in this situation where selling houses and landlords are the economy. I was horrified to read about the hotel workers being made homeless on the streets … Poor sods unbelievable … The UK is a very twisted place

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    “The UK is a very twisted place” would be a good starting point for getting our priorities right, Damien. It was all very touch-feely at the beginning, wasn’t it? Homeless people brought off the streets and put up in hotels. Unthinkable. Now they’re quietly booting them back out onto the streets again.

    Without concerted efforts to resist the greed of landlords and all the other leeches in the rental market that you mention (the debt agencies, for example), it’s going to be hard to hide the newly homeless people – including families – out on the streets soon in significant numbers, because I doubt that councils – squeezed like never before by central government as a result of the virus – will have the resources to hide them all in temporary B&Bs. Is this what people want?

    As for businesses, that’s easier – nothing will stay open except the supermarkets and other food-related businesses. Everything else will be online, so city centres will be wastelands, and places like Oxford Street will be empty and boarded up, and pubs, clubs, restaurants, live music venues, theatres and cinemas will all go bust. Again, is this what people want?

    If not, then the culture of absolute landlord entitlement needs to be challenged.

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s an article from yesterday’s Guardian about efforts by the London Renters Union to mobilise for a rent strike:

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    The London Renters Union’s ‘Can’t Pay Won’t Pay’ page is here:

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    Also from yesterday’s Guardian, an article about how Ei Group, the UK’s largest pub group, “will help publicans, albeit in terms of a discount on future stock purchases.” However, Greg Mulholland, the chair of the British Pub Confederation, said that Ei’s proposal was only a “clever ruse” that “still meant charging rent on closed pubs.”

  40. Andy Worthington says...

    Another aspect of the rental story that’s worth thinking about – the role of Airbnb:

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevi Brannelly wrote, in response to 31, above:

    Almost no one in NYC is on rent strike bc they are afraid to lose their apt. There is a freeze on evictions until Aug, but some are afraid that that just means they will owe 3-4 mo rent in Aug and if you haven’t been working there is no way you can come up with $6-8,000. Almost everyone I know is out of a job, musicians, restaurant workers, movie production folk, venue owners, retail workers, and so on. They are not refusing to pay, they can’t. the unemployment insurance doesn’t cover everyone and the amount, even with the add’l some are getting, doesn’t cover basic living expenses. For me it wouldn’t cover rent no less anything else. Ppl have dropped health insurance ($600-800 a mo per person were their rates) hoping they will qualify for Obamacare, but may still have to pay for that–though a lot less. Others have cut back everything (cable, internet, anything they can spare) and still can’t make rent. Most have reached out to their landlords to ask if they could have reduced rent, and a few wonderful people have agreed, but most have said no. and the reality in NY is that huge numbers of buildings have been bought up by very large corporations–who often illegally raise rents for apts that were rent controlled–and none of those have offered anything. I am not talking about small landlords who rent out their downstairs apt or own one or two bldgs, I would hope that those “reachable” human beings (unlike corps) might be able to work w a tenant to get at least partial payment, and that there should be programs via credit unions or banks to give them low or no interest loans so they don’t lose the property. Here some banks have frozen mortgage payments (no payment for several months without penalty) I am sure they don’t want a ton of foreclosures in a down market. But renters without income don’t have an asset to sell or a bank who has an incentive to work with them. At least in the US there is very little help for renters and none of the stimulus programs, local or state programs have really offered any help w rent–probably because it is a huge problem and the realtor groups own most of our politicians.

  42. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for that detailed analysis of the situation in NYC, Kevi. I fear it may be as bad here – and that was the whole point of my article, really. Landlords need to accept that tenants can’t pay when they have no money, and can’t defer payments, because they’ll never make up what they’re losing now. Our economic system has been squeezing people harder and harder for years now, and the system has only survived because people have been living on almost nothing after they’ve paid their rents and bills, or they’ve even been sharing rooms.

    If landlords can’t take the hit, then they need to talk to the banks and to politicians. One way or another, I can’t see that the all-time high rates of house prices and rental prices can survive the coming depression, so it’s in all our interests to work out how we might be able to get out of it.

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    Damien Morrison wrote, in response to 36, above:

    We have a major recession coming on the back of this not to mention a fucking no Deal brexit all I can say is get ready I’m in the private rental sector I like millions have absolutely .. No .. security I mean I haven’t signed a lease in years .. That’s wot they do now .. Can get you out quicker … the thing is Andy you look on YT at vids of tiny houses shipping container homes even upcycling old trailers and it’s relatively cheap to do .. But .. because every scrap of land is owned in this country there’s no where to go there’s nothing wrong with trailer parks I’d live in a trailer tomorrow .. This whole system is such a mess.

  44. Andy Worthington says...

    Perhaps this time, Damien, when the recession – the Depression, more likely – hits, we’ll actually get the solidarity we’ve been hoping for ever since we first started communicating around the time of Occupy. There are reasons to be hopeful – mutual aid groups that have sprung up everywhere, trying to make sure that the most vulnerable people are looked after, for example.
    Our system has been running on the maximum exploitation of as many people as possible for many years now, and our leaders were just about getting away with it because so many of those who fell through the cracks were hidden, and because so many others were literally clinging on by their fingernails, but the illusion’s gone now. Millions of people will be much poorer than they were before, and you can’t indefinitely sustain an exploitative capitalist system when the oppressed have nothing left to exploit. Landlords will have empty flats and empty shops, and then what are they going to do?

  45. Andy Worthington says...

    Ruth Gilbert wrote, in response to 9, above:

    And of course, the appalling response from the Shadow Left – ‘Thangam Debbonaire’s bizarre fallacy-laden and deeply disingenuous ‘Landlords above Workers’ diatribe’:

  46. Andy Worthington says...

    New Labour v Old Labour, Ruth. All it would take to start with is a recognition of what everyone’s going through, and how everyone is taking a hit through no fault of their own – tenants as well as landlords. Then we could start working out how to deal with it, but putting up walls to protect landlords from the very beginning unfortunately just shows where these politicians’ priorities lie, and makes me conclude that they see the suffering of landlords as more significant than the suffering of tenants.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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