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Almost 5 million people in England fear a break-up would leave them homeless

Posted 20 Jan 2016

Nearly one in three people living with a partner – the equivalent of 4.9 million people – fear that if their relationship broke down they would lose their home and have nowhere to go, new research by housing and homelessness charity Shelter shows.

Relationship breakdown is responsible for 1 in every 6 cases of homelessness in England, according to the latest government figures, making it the third most common cause of homelessness in the country.

The survey, which was conducted by YouGov, also revealed that more than one in four people are worried they will fall behind with their rent or mortgage at some point in 2016.

Shelter is urging anyone struggling to keep up with their housing costs, or going through a break-up and worried about losing their home, to get expert help as early as possible.

Shelter's helpline adviser, Nadeem Khan, said: "A break-up can happen for any number of reasons, but it's always an incredibly stressful and upsetting time, without the added fear of becoming homeless as well.

"Speaking to Shelter's expert advisers early can make a world of difference when it comes to finding or keeping a home. Every day we help people who are coming to terms with a relationship breakdown, find somewhere new to live or figure out how they can afford their home alone.

"Sadly, people too often feel like they have to go through this ordeal on their own, but Shelter is here to help 365 days a year, and we're only ever a click or call away at or on 0808 800 4444."

Case study:Felicia lived with her husband and two children. One day her husband vanished without warning, leaving over 5 months of unpaid rent. As a result, Felicia and her two children became homeless. They were forced to leave their family home and the council moved them into an emergency B&B.

"Until he disappeared, my husband was in charge of the bills - I believed our finances were sound. After he disappeared I was shocked to find we owed thousands in rent. Our world collapsed; I had no way to pay and before I knew it we were made homeless.

"The council moved us into an emergency B&B and it all became too much for the children, three of us sharing a room with no privacy. They stopped going to school, talking to their friends, or finding joy in anything. 

"I discovered Shelter online and called the helpline straight away. For the first time since our nightmare began, I felt hopeful, cared about and protected. Shelter's advice and legal support helped my family back onto our feet and into a stable home. It scares me to think of where we'd be without them."

Notes to editors:

Nadeem's advice tips for people facing a break-up and worried about housing.

1.     Ask for help early: Talk to an expert adviser as soon as possible who can take you through your options and advise on your next steps. Visit or call Shelter's free helpline on 0808 800 4444.

2.     Be clear about your budget: If you were to go it alone, how much could you afford to spend on housing? Your options will depend on your own income, your existing commitments and if you qualify for housing benefit.

3.     Keep control of costs: Get advice on how to keep your costs down if you move out. If you have a fixed-term contract, you have to pay the rent even if you leave.  

4.     Don't put up with domestic violence: Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247 for free and confidential support if you are being abused.

5.     Consider legal advice: You may need it if you have a mortgage or are considering divorce. Use the Law Society's 'find a solicitor' tool to find a local lawyer. 

  • YouGov plc conducted an online survey with a representative and weighted sample of 4,527 GB adults, 3,577 were from England. Fieldwork was conducted 16th-18th November 2015.

  • 30% of 1,309 adults in England who live with a partner and pay rent or mortgage agreed strongly or tended to agree that they were worried that if their relationship with their partner broke down they would lose their home and have nowhere to go. Using the 2014 ONS mid-year population statistics, we have estimated that this is the equivalent of 4.9 million people in England.

  • The 2015 Q3 homelessness statistics from DCLG show that 2,410 households accepted as homeless had lost their last settled home because of a relationship breakdown.

  • 29% of 2,078 rent or mortgage payers in England said that they were worried about being able to afford their rent or mortgage at some point in 2016.