Warning over rent arrears problem

Rent arrears is the fastest growing debt problem in the UK, a debt advice charity has warned.

The Money Advice Trust has warned of growing problems with rent arrears

Rent arrears is the fastest growing debt problem in the UK, a debt advice charity has warned.

The Money Advice Trust said its helpline received 20,000 calls between January and October from people behind with their rent.

It compares with 8,000 calls over the same period in 2007, before the economic crisis hit.

Nearly 60% of calls to the helpline involve rent arrears, a jump of 37% in the last two years and 13% in the last 12 months.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, warned that rising rent in the UK could lead to a debt crisis.

"The long-term trend for rising rent prices is clear and its impact on the debt landscape is significant. Rent arrears are now the fastest growing debt problem we help people with at National Debtline, and we are in danger of falling into a rent debt crisis," she said.

"Housing costs are the most important household bill of all, and to see such increasing numbers of people falling behind on rent payments is indicative of how the cost of living squeeze has hit many families very hard since 2007.

"We hear from thousands of people every month about the difficult decisions they have to make just to hold their family finances together.

"The risks of falling behind on rent payments are stark and it is vital anyone concerned about their ability to pay the rent seeks free, impartial advice as soon as possible."

In 2004, 4% of calls to the Money Advice Trust's National Debtline involved rent arrears.

Labour housing spokeswoman Emma Reynolds said: " Rent is using up more and more of people's income, contributing to the cost-of-living crisis under David Cameron. The housing market isn't working because there simply aren't enough homes around for young people and families that want to buy but are forced to rent.

"Rather than take the action needed to tackle this crisis, this out-of-touch Tory-led Government is presiding over the lowest levels of housebuilding in peacetime since the 1920s. Ed Miliband has committed to tackling this crisis and a Labour government will build at least 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next parliament."

Housing minister Kris Hopkins said: " Today's claims are in stark contrast to the Government's own figures showing rent rises at below inflation, the numbers of social tenants in rent arrears down compared to 2010 and the numbers of landlord evictions unchanged since last year.

"But for those facing difficulty, we've put in place a range of support including working with the Big Lottery Fund to make £65 million available to debt advice charities over the next two years, so I would urge anyone with money worries to seek early help to avoid losing their home."