The New Year may not be very happy for hundreds of thousands of people in the South East, as research by Shelter reveals over a quarter of rent or mortgage payers in the region are cutting back on winter heating and clothing to meet their housing payments.
This is the equivalent to over 1.2 million people.
The study by housing and homelessness charity Shelter and YouGov shows the strain people in the South-East face this January, with one in 10 rent or mortgage payers fearing they will be unable to meet their housing costs this month.
This is despite the fact that many have already cut back on Christmas to help pay their rent or mortgage, including reducing their spending on presents and food.
With our shortage of affordable homes leaving many families struggling with sky high housing costs, over 100,000 people have sought advice on housing debt from Shelter’s helpline, online, or face-to-face services in the last year.
The charity is urging anyone starting to have difficulties paying their rent or mortgage to get help as early as possible to avoid losing their home.
Shelter’s helpline adviser Danielle Goodwin said: “It never gets easier to hear someone on the phone in tears, and at breaking point from the weight of their spiralling housing payments.
“Every day at Shelter we hear from families who face the bleak choice between missing their rent or cutting back on heating – even though their families have barely had a Christmas to celebrate.
“So many people are feeling the pinch and there’s no shame in asking for help, which is why Shelter is here 365 days a year. Getting advice early can make all the difference, and we’re only ever a click or a call away at shelter.org.uk/advice or on 0808 800 4444.”
Case study: Michelle and her family have had the threat of eviction hanging over them since husband Kevin became self-employed in his job as a builder.
“Even though my husband works as many hours as he can, it’s constantly hand to mouth. We cut back on everything to pay the rent – including food. When the children are at school the heating isn’t on at all, and over Christmas we had to cut back on presents and clothing.
“I try to hide it as much as I can from my youngest children but they know they can’t ask for treats, and not to let anyone they don’t know into the house in case the bailiffs come round. I hate living like that. I recently went to the doctor because the stress of it all has made my asthma worse.
“When I rang Shelter my adviser was really supportive and I felt for the first time, there might be light at the end of the tunnel. I found out that there are things you can do to stay in your home.”
Shelter helpline adviser Danielle Goodwin’s top 5 tips on dealing with rent and mortgage debt:
1. Ask for help early: If you are struggling to pay your housing costs, talk to an expert adviser as soon as possible who can take you through your options and advise on your next steps. Visit www.shelter.org.uk/advice or call Shelter’s free helpline on 0808 800 4444.
2. Focus on housing costs first: Make sure paying your mortgage or rent is the priority. The most important thing is to keep your home, even if you are getting demands from credit card and payday loan companies.
3. Act now on mortgage arrears: Contact your lender as soon as possible if you are behind on the mortgage. They have to try to help you.
4. Get help with rent arrears: Miss two rent payments and you could be at risk of eviction. See if you can claim housing benefit to help pay the rent.
5. Respond to letters and phone calls. It’s natural to want to keep your head down and hope it’ll sort itself out but it’s important to read everything your mortgage lender, landlord or letting agent sends to you. Keep records of every letter and phone call.