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

nkf Sat 04-Jan-14 13:45:06

There will be people falling into arrears and it is important to get the message to people about how to handle the problem. And not to have them think that Wonga and the debt consolidation people with their big budgets for TV advertising are the only solutions.

nkf Sat 04-Jan-14 13:46:12

I had a quick look at the story through the link and it seems it was based on a yougov survey in which people were asked if they felt there were struggling. So, it's sort of impressionistic.

specialsubject Sat 04-Jan-14 15:20:55

I do yougov surveys for the pocket money that they (eventually) pay. (2.5 years to get £50, although you never get screened out). I'm not struggling, but it is not something that those with plenty of money will do at that pay rate. so the results will be skewed.

that sample is statistically invalid. And the way that yougov phrase things will also skew things.

not belittling people's problems - but this is sensationalism.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sat 04-Jan-14 15:34:15

But LEM such a daft figure as 70% being bandied about doesn't make people sit up and listen. It makes them think 'what a load of bollocks, stupid single-issue organisation', and switch off.

Oblomov Sat 04-Jan-14 16:37:19

I dont know anyone struggling to pay their mortgage.

manicmij Sat 04-Jan-14 17:36:25

If this percentage of folk are struggling with interest rates being the lowest for years goodness knows how everyone will manage when the rates go up. Try having to cope with 8 - 15% rates, then there should be a problem. No, the job situation isn't any different from when the rates were that high, unemployment was rife. Folk though had different priorities, equivalent today would be only a pay as you go phone, no fancy model or contract; no foreign holiday or even a holiday away anywhere at all; clothes were bought for a season at least, not for a night out; and of course; none of the must haves for cars, tvs; oversized fridges that just encourage buying too much food, eating out;houses, toys bought throught the year not just for birthdays/Christmas.

Surprised at this attitude. In spite of living away from family so no support there, did manage to work part time then full time; had a husband who couldn't lend a hand with child care his work requiring he worked shifts and 3 out of 4 weekends. Of course times were hard, but we did what the old adage suggests - we cut our cloth to fit our income basically. If we couldn't afford something, we did without. Something a lot of folk nowadays do not seem to be able to understand or accept.

JakeBullet Sat 04-Jan-14 19:15:05

Mortgages were not so high when interest rates were up before. My mortgage a4 the tines was £40k and I could easily manage the interest rate increase on my salary as a single person.

it was my first property and I doubt that ANYONE now can buy a first prperty (2 bed flat) for such a paltry amount.

No wonder some people are struggling.,,..not because of fancy phones or holidays but just because their housing costs now are huge.

addictedtosugar Sat 04-Jan-14 20:45:12

I too have suspicions about the 70%, but whatever the figure, it is frightening that people are struggling when assistance is at hand.

Jake I've just done a right move search. Min 2 beds, within 10 miles of here. 265 under 50K, and aprox 100 under 40K. Many of these are 2 and 3 bed teraces with GCH.

JakeBullet Sat 04-Jan-14 21:20:12

I suppose it depends on where you live but many are tied to areas for work and/or family reasons.

will do a Rightmove search for my area but doubt anything under £100k here. Essex.

JakeBullet Sat 04-Jan-14 21:29:39

yep...once Id got through the mobile home parks for the over 60s and shared ownership, the cheapest two bed flat here was "offers in excess of £100k".

So it's the south east that's predominantly expensive which makes the 70% figure odd..,did they only sample from the south east?

MadIsTheNewNormal Sun 05-Jan-14 03:25:35

The only fair way to do this kind of survey is to look at how many people are paying an unacceptably high percentage of their total income (including tax credits, HB, CB etc) for the thee basics; housing, power/heat and water. I'm not even factoring food and clothing into that because again, food and clothing spending is very subjective.

If you look at the disposable income people have after those three essential things (and excluding any debts/credit they may have) then you will get a truer picture of what 'struggling' means in real, quantifiable terms.

I could be earning 100 grand but still 'struggle' if I insisted on living in a four bedder in Richmond and paying school fees and driving a brand new BMW. (in fact I doubt you even could do all those things on 100k) But no-one living sensibly within their means could seriously argue that they struggle on 100k, when compared to very low income families.

And all sorts of people run up arrears on rent and mortgage, from the genuinely struggling who have suffered illness or redundancy or business failure, to the Flash Harrys who have bitten off more than they could chew, even though they had more than most in the first place.

That's why I can't even be bothered to read past the ridiculously sensationalist headline - without more clearly defined parameters it means zilch.

OneLittleToddleTerror Sun 05-Jan-14 13:23:54

addictedtosugar are those 2 beds at £40-50k shared ownership? The cheapest I can find here is a £58k 2-bed flat with 40% share. Then from £67.5k and £90k there were 2 non-shared ownership 2-bed flats, and a lot of retirement and park homes. Another 2 flats at £90-100k only (and a lot more mobile homes). I think it's fairly slim pickings to get anything under £100k. I didn't look at anything over £100k but I still see many mobile homes at £100k.

This is in Hampshire.

addictedtosugar Sun 05-Jan-14 16:04:04

Nope, I'm tup Norf. Those are actual 2 bed terraces for sale. I live very close to places that regularly feature in the 10 top worst places to live!

I do realise that we are unusual in housing prices. Many of DH's friends are in awe of our house, til we point out it is worth less than their london ish flat.

I wasn't trying to say that these prices are normal, just that many people don't realise quite how cheep houses up north can be. It makes the 70% even more unbelievable to me - but yes, salaries here are lower too!

Putthatbookdown Thu 30-Jan-14 14:08:10

I work full-time but cannot afford a holiday but i do pay my mortgage

TalkinPeace Mon 24-Feb-14 13:17:57

One of the "key criteria" for money stress that surveys use is whether people do their food shopping on a credit card

but
they do not ask if that credit card is paid off in full every month

so the data are dodgy

as with all surveys, find out who paid for it and why.

anth71 Wed 19-Mar-14 13:38:58

I am a freelance writer looking for INTERVIEW SUBJECTS for an IPC women's magazine. The article is focused on money and learning from our money mistakes in regards to the below areas:

Someone that took on too big of a mortgage.
Someone that ran up their credit cards to put themselves in debt
Someone that lent a friend or family member money (enough money to put pressure on things at home and put pressure on that relationship between lender and lendee).

If you are willing to be interviewed for the magazine, I'd love to hear from you. antheasteph@gmail.com

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