MumsnetGuestBlogs (MNHQ) Fri 03-Jan-14 14:08:54

70% of UK families struggle to pay rent or mortgage, or are already in arrears - but help is available

70% of UK families say they are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent, or have already fallen behind with payments, according to research published today by housing charity Shelter.

The prospect of losing one's home is undoubtably terrifying, but Shelter helpline advisor Liz Clare says that tackling things head on can make all the difference.

Read her post and tell us what you think. Are you struggling with mortgage or rent payments, or have you previously faced losing your home? Share your experiences on the thread below.

Liz Clare

Helpline advisor, Shelter UK

Posted on: Fri 03-Jan-14 14:08:54

(40 comments )

Lead photo

70% of UK families are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent

When times are tough it’s easy to bury your head in the sand and hope that your problems will disappear. I think it’s a temptation we all feel, but working as an adviser for Shelter’s helpline I hear from families every day who are facing a battle to stay in their homes. This means I know all too well why it’s so important to resist that ostrich effect - tackling your problems early can be the difference between losing your home and keeping it.

Recently I took a call from Louise, who contacted the Helpline because her hours at work had been reduced and as a result she was struggling to make ends meet. She was looking for a full time job but hadn't found one yet, and the stress was overwhelming. So far, Louise had left all of the letters from her Housing Association unopened because she just couldn’t face them, and was terrified that she and her children would be left homeless.

Her story is all too familiar. We read about economic growth in the papers, but I speak to families every day who are finding things tougher than ever. When soaring housing costs are combined with wage freezes and the rising cost of food and fuel, it's easy to see why so many are living on a knife-edge.

If that's you, or someone you know, you aren't alone. Research released by Shelter today, based on a survey of 4000 British adults, found that a staggering 70% of families are currently struggling or falling behind with their rent or mortgage payments. Like Louise, many of us feel hopeless - but I know the difference that facing your problems head on and seeking advice as early as possible can make.

Louise's landlord should only have been taking formal steps to evict her as a last resort - the place to start was to work out a payment plan. She had loans and credit cards to pay off, which – now that her salary had been cut - was eating up almost all of her money each month. I put her in touch with a debt adviser to help see if she could reduce the payments and free up some extra cash - rent or mortgage payments should always be the top priority over other bills to prevent people from losing their homes. Louise also assumed she couldn’t get any benefits because she still worked, so we talked about applying for Housing Benefit.

We read about economic growth in the papers, but I speak to families every day who are finding things tougher than ever. When soaring housing costs are combined with wage freezes and the rising cost of food and fuel, it's easy to see why so many are living on a knife-edge.


I suggested that Louise talk to her landlord about her situation and ask for a little time to sort things out. There can be all sorts of reasons for falling into arrears, and it’s easy for anyone to slip into a downward spiral following a job loss or illness. The key is to get help sooner rather than later. Have a look at our pages on dealing with rent arrears and be brave – open your letters, listen to your voicemails, check your text messages. More often than not, it isn’t too late.

If you have a mortgage, falling behind with payments can feel even scarier. For many struggling homeowners repossession feels like a foregone conclusion, but it doesn't have to be. In November I spoke to Anthony, who'd had to take time off work following a bout of depression and, as a result, started to fall behind on his mortgage payments. He had since returned to work but was still struggling to keep up and feared that he would lose the house he shared with his partner and their 1 month old baby.

Thankfully Antony came to us with enough time to make a difference. We were able to help the family negotiate with their lenders and ultimately keep their home through the mortgage rescue scheme. This meant that they had a stable place to spend Christmas and are hopeful that they will get back on track this year - it's happy endings like this that make my job really rewarding.

All of us are different, so the options and solutions are different too: but tackling things early really could save your home. All lenders know they can only take repossession action as a last resort, which means they should consider all the alternatives. Keeping your lender on side by contacting them as soon as you're at risk of slipping into arrears gives you the best possible chance of keeping your home.

My message to anyone who’s struggling to keep up with their rent or mortgage payments is that you’re not alone – I speak to families every day who are in the same situation, and coming to Shelter for help as soon as you get into difficulties can be the difference between losing your home and keeping it. Thankfully we are always here – either online, on the other end of the phone (0808 800 4444) or face to face at our advice centres.

So, if you’re falling into arrears, don't succumb to the 'ostrich effect' and bury your head in the sand; seek help straight away. Help from Shelter is available 365 days a year to make sure that no-one has to fight bad housing and homelessness on their own, and with our help it is possible to win the battle to stay in your home.

By Liz Clare

Twitter: @Shelter

Onesleeptillwembley Fri 03-Jan-14 15:48:34

Good advice but the figure of 70% is unbelievable. Who was targeted for the survey?

purits Fri 03-Jan-14 18:13:07

Aren't Shelter the charity who tried to make us believe that 80,000 children were homeless? A claim that was debunked when it was realised that they use a different definition of homeless from most people's.hmm
Listen to this starting at 1 minute 20 sec.

Piffpaffpoff Fri 03-Jan-14 18:33:03

I find the 70% questionable as well - how many people were surveyed? And I'd like to know what exactly what question they were asked to generate this headline.

JakeBullet Fri 03-Jan-14 18:37:23

It does say in arrears OR STRUGGLING, so I think this is a believable figure....lots of people are struggling simply due to the rise in the cost of living.

I missed the debate over the definition of homelessness which to me means someone without a permanent place to call home and includes those in B&B accommodation or other temporary residence.

How did they get to 70%? It doesn't sound believeable, sorry.

nkf Fri 03-Jan-14 18:54:37

Struggling is subjective though isn't it? I think the main point is that people should seek free professional help and advice as soon as possible is good though.

mrscog Fri 03-Jan-14 19:12:43

Is this the stat that was based on a survey of around 4000 people?

Alibabaandthe40nappies Fri 03-Jan-14 19:21:38

Define struggling. It all depends on how the question is put.

Do you have to go without food or heat to pay your rent or mortgage = struggling.

Do you have to spend less on clothes/wine/holidays so that you can pay your essential bills? That would be an entirely different question and one to which an awful lot of people would answer yes.

Shelter do themselves no favours by brandishing the 70% figure. Which is a shame because it undermines their work and message.

mrscog Fri 03-Jan-14 20:02:17

Also, '70% of UK Families' were people who had no mortgage/rental costs excluded from this calculation or are they included too?

MoreBeta Fri 03-Jan-14 22:24:42

I read today that about 45% of homes are owned by people with no mortgage. The 70% figure therefore surely cannot be correct.

RhondaJean Fri 03-Jan-14 23:20:08

It was on the Scottish news earlier that one in five are struggling. I can believe that much more easily than 70 per cent.

Piscivorus Sat 04-Jan-14 00:28:06

I also find 70% unbelievable. The trouble is that once you believe somebody has tried to pull the wool over your eyes with the headline you find it hard to accept the rest of the message

JakeBullet Sat 04-Jan-14 08:48:06

I suspect only those with rental and mortgage costs were surveyed. Possibly those in a middle to low income bracket. It would be helpful to see how they selected people for surveying.

WantToShop Sat 04-Jan-14 09:06:17

What MoreBeta said plus dodgy "homeless" stats.

We're about to become homeless (by some definition) - I won't be nipping down to millets to buy bivvy bags though.

MadIsTheNewNormal Sat 04-Jan-14 10:29:22

These kind of 'findings' make me so frustrated. They are totally and utterly meaningless unless they specify how many people they surveyed, from which demographics, and what is the exact definition of 'struggling' in the context of the survey.

I dismiss so much of what I read because of ambiguity of the way the 'findings' are presented, and the emotive or biased language in the way they are reported.

LEMoncehadacatcalledSANTA Sat 04-Jan-14 12:13:28

Wow - someone posts a very helpful and reassuring post and people are quibbling over statistics! I have struggled with my mortgage and we are still in arrears due to my DP being fucked over by an employer last year - that is going to court. Quite frankly i don't care if the statistics are wrong, but you pedants bust a gut - its not that bad, its just the feckless few isn't it hmm Why not accept it as a bit of publicity for a charity that does what it can to help people facing homelessness. Just because someone isn't living in a cardboard box doesn't mean they aren't homeless. What does struggle mean? it doesn't mean arrears. People ARE struggling and people ARE losing their homes - i would rather the % be skewed in order to make people sit up and listen and realise that help is out there than do the opposite, you know, what the government do and skew their statistics to paint a rosier picture.

Really disappointed that people have done this

LucyLasticBand Sat 04-Jan-14 12:39:17

lets hope people just readthe link LEM, as i did initially.
it is helpful and a reminder for me personally to pay my rent in favour of other debts.

RhondaJean Sat 04-Jan-14 12:50:29

Right LEM. Calm down.

If you have ever read any of my posts you will know I am not a believer in teh feckless few by a long mile.

However this stat is blatantly wrong and by a long way. One in five or twenty percent struggling is IMO more than enough to worry about. Using blatant headline mongering and stat twisting like this only does what should be a very important campaign a disservice; it puts it on a footing akin to daily mail style journalism AND a lot of people will read only the headline, think well that is blatant nonsense and disregard the rest, thus losing the good advice.

Poorly judged shelter, really poorly judged.

LucyLasticBand Sat 04-Jan-14 12:52:11

but people who are struggling how ever many there are will read and gain some advice.

purits Sat 04-Jan-14 12:53:40

I would rather the % be skewed in order to make people sit up and listen

That's a personal choice; I would prefer the truth, not exaggeration. My immediate reaction to the OP was "this sounds remarkably similar to those people who claimed enormous numbers being homeless" so I checked it out and, yes, it was the same charity. I then thought "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" and didn't bother reading the article.
You are a minority of the posters so far. They are putting off most people with (very obviously) dodgy statistics. We are all quibbling about percentages instead of discussing the matter in hand, which is a bit of a PR failure on their part.

Snog Sat 04-Jan-14 13:03:18

This statistic discredits the article for me which is a real shame

JakeBullet Sat 04-Jan-14 13:24:31

LEM, youe post summed up how I felt about this. BUT....the other posters here have a point. If thw figures are sensationalist then eventually the very serious issues behind them will be lost and that woukd be a pity because undoubtedly many many people ARE struggling with their rent or mortgage.

OneLittleToddleTerror Sat 04-Jan-14 13:36:13

I don't believe the 70% either. Maybe their population is based on people who contacted Shelter?

Struggling is such a objective thing. PIL are on the bread line, living on state pension with a mortgage to pay. But they don't act like that, eating out more than we do, have a more expensive sky package etc. They got into financial trouble before xmas because they let a neighbour used their phone and ended up £100 in call charges.

On the other hand, I feel we are struggling on a much higher income and also with a smaller proportion of our income paying for mortgage. I just worried a lot of savings and retirement. I even complained to DH for spending £5.50 on two ready meals! (Well they are bloody expensive aren't they)?

OneLittleToddleTerror Sat 04-Jan-14 13:38:09

And LEM it really didn't help when a good charity come up with statistics like this that aren't believable. I know there are people who are in arrears in rent/mortgage. But by using sensationalist statistics like this, it's hard to make people take them seriously.

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