16:40 PM, 19th January 2012, About 11 years ago 10
Landlords are bracing for a flood of rent arrears cases as renters struggle with their bills over the festive period.
Housing charity Shelter claims around one-in-three renters have to make a tough choice between paying their rent or spending on food.
The number is up 44% since 2008, as families and individuals have juggled their finances to cope with rising living costs while earnings have stayed the same, says the charity.
If the figures were projected nationally, around 16 million households are trimming their spending on essentials and 10 million are switching off their heating to cover the rent, reckons the charity.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “These staggering findings show just how many millions of people are cutting back on essentials as the continued squeeze on incomes starts to really bite.
“It demonstrates the tough choices families are now having to make, between heating their home, putting a decent meal on the table or paying for the roof over their head.
“Every two minutes someone in Britain is at risk of losing their home. We strongly urge anyone struggling to pay their rent or mortgage to seek advice as early as possible.”
Households have faced high living costs and many people have lost their jobs over the past year, mainly due to rising fuel bills, spending cuts and last year’s VAT hike from 17.5% to 20%.
However, the largest drop in inflation in nearly three years was reported this month and the Bank of England expects the rate to continue falling over the next year to ease prices.
Several utility firms have also announced a drop in prices due to take affect soon.
The latest figures on buy to let rent arrears from LSL Property Services, the UK’s largest letting agent, show nearly 12% of all rent unpaid or paid late in December – up from 10% in November.
Rent arrears total £276 million, the highest level since December 2009.