ANYONE who has fallen behind in paying rent because of the pandemic is being urged to contact their local authority to find out if they can receive financial help to avoid eviction.

The call is in a bid to keep people in their homes and close to their social networks to avoid the devastating impact that homelessness can wreak on physical, mental and social wellbeing.

First announced in July last year, new changes to the £10 million Tenancy Hardship Grant announced today mean that anyone facing arrears due to covid-related reasons from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 right up until December 2021, can apply.

This means that tenants in rent arrears because they lost their jobs following the removal of the Furlough scheme in September, or who suffered a significant decrease in income when the Universal Credit uplift was removed by the UK Government, may now be eligible under the new criteria.

Other examples of rent arrears as a direct result of the pandemic include a loss of income due to lockdowns or because of becoming ill with Covid-19.

Also now able to apply are tenants in social housing who are not in receipt of housing-related benefits. Tenants in private rented accommodation are still encouraged to apply.

Adrian from Rhondda Cynon Taf, aged 50, works in his local restaurant and was earning between £1100 – 1300 before the pandemic. Because he had only been with his company for nine months, his payments dropped to around £700 a month under the furlough scheme.

Adrian said: “I was very conscious that my biggest bill was my rent, so I called my landlord when I began struggling to keep up with payments. As the pandemic wore on, this put me under great stress and I worried I was going to lose my house. By the time the country started opening up and I was back in work, I owed nearly £5000 in rent. This felt an insurmountable amount of money to pay during a time when all of my bills had been racking up. I have always paid my rent on time so it was really stressful for me to find myself in this situation.

I heard about the grant on the radio so got in contact with the council to see if I could apply for it. Finding out I was eligible felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, I was ecstatic. Suddenly I could talk to my landlord again and be on an even keel, knowing that I wasn’t in debt with them anymore and that I wasn’t going to lose my home. The relief was enormous. I feel like I can just get on with my life now, positively. I feel like I have been listened to and helped in a time of crisis.

The extension of the grant will make all the difference and do exactly what it says on the tin, which is to help people like me stay on my feet.

Minister for Climate Change Julie James said: “I am urging anyone who is facing eviction or who has fallen behind on their rent because of the pandemic to contact their local authority today to find out what help is available to them.

Our £10 million Tenancy Hardship Grant will help prevent eviction and support tenants to remain in their homes. The impact of being made homeless on people and families is huge – including support networks being lost, children having to move school, and families’ mental health and well-being suffering. We want to do all we can to help avoid that situation.

The grant should provide significant cost savings to each local authority in preventing homelessness and supporting people to remain in their homes and maintain their tenancies.”

Ruth Power, CEO of Shelter Cymru said: “We welcome the changes to the Tenancy Hardship Grant announced today. Widening the eligibility criteria will mean more people, who are struggling during the pandemic to pay their rent, are able to access support to keep their homes. Our advisors are working with people across Wales whose incomes have been seriously affected by the pandemic and who are really worried about the future. Getting money quickly to people in need will prevent families becoming homeless.