Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

Almost half of working renters only one paycheque away from losing their home

Posted 19 Sep 2019

With little or no savings to fall back on, 45% of private renters in England could not afford to pay their rent for more than a month if they lost their job, new research from Shelter shows.

Surviving from one paycheque to the next the Shelter and YouGov study found that almost three million private renters could be just one paycheque away from losing their home.

The situation is particularly bleak for working families with children. The charity found a staggering 60%, or 760,000 renting families could be just one paycheque away from losing their home. What is worse, a job loss would render more than half a million of these families (550,000) immediately unable to pay their rent.

This concerning snapshot of life for struggling renters’ chimes with the government’s own figures, which reveal 63% of private renting households have no savings at all. Sadly, this is not surprising given they spend on average 41% of their monthly income on rent costs - making it incredibly difficult for private renters to put anything aside.

Shelter is using its latest findings to argue for more social homes as the only stable and genuinely affordable alternative to private renting for millions of people. With the country in a state of political and economic uncertainty, the charity is urging all parties not to side-line the housing crisis, and to ensure social housebuilding is at the centre of any domestic agenda.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “By allowing the number of genuinely affordable social homes to plummet, politicians have super-charged our housing emergency.

“Millions of working people are now caught in an endless cycle of paying grossly expensive private rents they can barely afford – with all the insecurity that brings. Many are terrified that even a short-term dip in income could result in them losing their home for good.

“Warm words and piecemeal policies will not solve this deepening crisis. The only way politicians can fix what has gone so wrong is with a clear commitment from every party to deliver three million more social homes over the next 20 years.”

Case study: Zoe, 44, is a single parent who lives with her 16-year-old son. She currently works two part-time jobs as a carer (30 hours a week). Every month is a financial struggle.   

Zoe says: “I work two jobs, but I’m still in a precarious position. If for some reason I lost my job, I worry how quickly we’d end up homeless. I can’t afford to save even £10 a month – everything goes. It’s a stressful situation, I’m just lucky I’ve got my friends around me and we try to help each other out.

“Sometimes I feel looked down on because I don’t have much money or can’t save a month’s worth of rent. But it’s not through lack of trying. I’m a single parent who is trying to be both mum and dad for my son; trying to be both at home for him and the bread winner.

“Life is hard, but I know it’s the same for thousands of other people like me. When you scratch the surface so many people are living month to month - ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’.”

Notes to editors:

  • Survey results are from a YouGov survey of 3,995 private renters in England, of which 2,965 are workers, and 833 were working parents with children living in their household. Results were weighted to Shelters weight scheme, online, 18+, Aug-Sept 2019. The table below shows the question asked and the full results.

  • The number of private renters and privately renting families affected have been calculated by Shelter using the survey results in conjunction with data on the number of people and families renting privately from the English Housing Survey 2017-18, Census 2011 and ONS mid-year population estimates. We estimate that there are 6.5 million adults in work and renting privately in England, and the EHS shows that there are 1.6 million families renting privately in England, of which we estimate 1.3 million have a household reference person in work.

  • The statistic on the proportion of privately renting households who have no savings at all (63%) is from Annex table 2.8, English Housing Survey Private Rented Sector Report 17/18.


Question: Please imagine that you were to lose your job in August 2019, and were NOT able to secure another one right away...Approximately how long, if at all, do you think you could afford to pay your rent or mortgage solely from your savings for? (Please think about your situation, taking into account your own and your partner's savings if applicable)


All private renters who work (England)NorthMidlandsEastLondonSouthPrivate renters who work and have children in the household (England)
Unweighted base2965797476267545880833
Weighted base30417614782727547751155
I/ we wouldn't be able to afford to pay my rent or mortgage from my savings at all31.00%32%35%36%22%35%44%
Up to 1 week2.00%2%3%3%2%2%3%
More than 1 week, up to 2 weeks2.00%2%3%2%2%3%3%
More than 2 weeks, up to 1 month9.00%11%10%9%8%9%11%
More than 1 month, up to 2 months13.00%13%14%9%14%11%11%
More than 2 months, up to 3 months10.00%9%9%10%15%9%7%
More than 3 months, up to 6 months10.00%9%7%10%12%11%7%
More than 6 months14.00%13%12%13%17%14%9%
Don't know8.00%9%7%7%8%7%6%
Net: no more than a month45%47%51%50%34%48%60%

About Shelter: Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through our advice, support and legal services. We campaign to make sure that, one day, no one will have to turn to us for help. For free and expert advice visit: