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Housing

A very welcome bill for Generation Rent

Rental payments in the UK are not recognised in the same way as mortgage payments – which drastically affects access to credit. But Big Issue Invest and Lord John Bird are attempting to level the playing field

Generation Rent has it tough. Having faced successive rent rises and a cap on housing benefit claims, its members also experience a clear unfairness when it comes to an increasingly important part of life – access to credit.

At the moment, the rental payments of more than 11 million renters in the UK aren’t recognised in the same way as homeowners’ mortgage payments.

Some of the nation’s hardest-pressed people are forced to pay the most in borrowing costs

It means some of the nation’s hardest-pressed people are forced to pay the most in borrowing costs, including repayment terms for fridges, freezers, furniture, utilities and mobile phone contracts. In short, it costs more to be poor.

The Rental Exchange initiative developed by Big Issue Invest – The Big Issue Group’s social investment arm – aims to level the playing field. In partnership with Experian, the initiative has been tested in the social housing sector, where tenants have rental payment history incorporated into their credit file, with no extra cost to either the housing provider or tenant.

Research has shown that 80 per cent of tenants would see credit scores rise as a result of being part of the scheme. It has also been opened up to private landlords and letting agencies to make sure private renters are given the chance to build the credit history they deserve for making payments on time.

Lord John Bird wants to make sure the Rental Exchange’s benefits extend to renters right across the country by making fair access to cheaper credit the norm. The Big Issue’s founder – now a crossbench peer – has launched the Creditworthiness Assessment Bill.

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“If you are a rent payer, even if you pay your rent on time for many years, it won’t necessarily get the credit file that you would if you were paying a mortgage,” Bird explains.

The bill, launched earlier in the summer and moving through Parliament’s legislative stages, would oblige credit service providers to take rental and council tax payment data into account.

With the London Assembly looking at how Mayor Sadiq Khan can promote financial inclusion, Big Issue Invest is calling on the mayor to make better use of data and information sharing, and increase participation in the Rental Exchange.

“Members of Generation Rent have been hit extremely hard. They deserve fair access and a hand up into opportunity,” says Bird.

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