As my hon. Friend will know, Rent a Room relief has been a feature of the income tax system since 1992. In 2016, the Government raised the threshold to £7,500. That was designed to deliver the Government’s objective of supporting individuals’ living standards and freeing up space in the housing market. It also reduces and simplifies the tax administrative burden for those affected and has taken some taxpayers out of self-assessment entirely.
Given that some 37% of homes in the country are under-occupied, my right hon. Friend will realise that encouraging more owners to take in lodgers could provide affordable housing to thousands more people. Will he please look to review whether there should be a higher level, perhaps £9,500, for live-in landlords with two or more lodgers, and would he be willing to have a virtual meeting with the Lodger Landlords Association at an appropriate time?
I am always delighted to meet my hon. Friend. In 2016, as I have mentioned, the Government raised the threshold. In 2018, the Government consulted on the scheme and there was consensus among the respondents that the relief provides an effective incentive for people to make spare rooms available for rent. Of course, I take his point and he has put it squarely on the record. As with all tax policy, we will look at this and other measures and keep them under review.
I think we are all united in saying that nobody should lose their home as a result of financial hardship brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Again, we absolutely welcome the steps that the Chancellor and the Treasury have taken so far, but is it possible to find more fiscal support to safeguard tenants in the private rented sector so that we can guarantee that these people are also able to keep their homes in the months ahead?
As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, we have specifically ruled out the possibility of eviction for three months, and we will continue to look at that situation as well.