Shelter warns about housing worries

One in 11 people is starting their New Year dogged by worries over how they can afford to pay their rent or mortgage, according to charity Shelter.

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Many people are facing the new year worried about paying their rent of mortgage, a survey by Shelter has found

One in 11 people is starting their New Year dogged by worries over how they can afford to pay their rent or mortgage, according to charity Shelter.

Some 9% of more than 4,000 people surveyed said they will fret about keeping the roof over their heads during January, as the hangover from Christmas bills kicks in.

Families were found to be the worst affected, with more than two-thirds (70%) of rent or mortgage payers with children saying they are either finding it tough to keep up with their payments or have fallen behind, compared with 63% of the general population of rent or mortgage payers.

More than one in three (38%) of people expect to struggle or fall behind with their rent or mortgage over the next 12 months, the research found.

Shelter warned of a worrying "ostrich effect" of people being unable to face up to their financial difficulties, with nearly one fifth of people (18%) saying they had not opened post if they thought it was a bill or late payment reminder. One in eight (14%) people admitted to putting correspondence in the bin without opening it.

Liz Clare, a helpline adviser at Shelter, said: "We're now seeing a stream of cases of families who've been unable to cope with mounting rent or mortgage bills and feel at breaking point.

"We all know how difficult it can be to face up to financial problems and we often hear from people who've been avoiding urgent post, but the reality is that not confronting it means things can spiral out of control.

"One caller to the helpline arrived home to her rented flat to find the locks had been changed. She hadn't realised that a court hearing had even taken place because she hadn't felt able to open her post after falling into arrears with her rent."

The research was undertaken in November for Shelter, which helps three million people a year with housing problems.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said that despite recent discussion of an economic recovery, a combination of high housing costs, wage freezes, and rising food and energy bills has created a "nightmare scenario" for many families.

He said: "It's a worrying sign of the times that so many of us are starting the New Year worried about how they'll pay their rent or mortgage in 2014.

"Unless they get help, some of the families struggling now could face the very real prospect of losing their home this year."

People looking for hep to avoid rent or mortgage arrears can visit shelter.org.uk/advice.

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said: "Our efforts to tackle the record deficit we inherited have kept interest rates down, rent rises below inflation, and mortgages more affordable, while mortgage arrears are at a record low and repossessions at their lowest level since records began in 2008."