Half of working renters only one pay cheque away from losing their home

Posted 22 Aug 2023

Half of working renters only one pay cheque away from losing their home

One in two working private renters in England - 3.2 million adults – wouldn’t have enough in savings to pay their rent for more than a month if they lost their job, new research by Shelter reveals. And shockingly, 2.2 million renters (34%) would be immediately unable to pay their rent from their savings if they lost their job.  

With tenants’ savings all but drying up, these are some of the worst figures the charity has recorded since before the pandemic. In fact, the number of renters who are one paycheque away from losing their home is up by almost a third (31%) in just two years. 

Official government data shows private rents are at a record high, and according to Shelter’s latest YouGov poll 55% of private renters have had their rent put up in the last year – putting immense strain on people’s finances. 2.1 million tenants (37%) are now struggling or behind with their rent due to the increase in payments.  

Shelter is arguing the only sustainable, long-term alternative to expensive, unstable private renting is to build more social homes. In contrast with private renting, social housing offers long term secure tenancies with rents set at local incomes.  

Additional research by the charity shows the benefits of social housing to local communities are significant with: 

More than three quarters of social renters in England (76%) say without their social home they would not be able to afford to live in their local area. 

67% of social renters say where they live feels like a safe, stable, and secure home. 

53% say living in a social home enables them to stay close to family and friends. 

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: “Private renters up and down the country are facing a crisis like never before. Decades of failure from government to build enough social housing means that the pressure on oversubscribed private renting is worse than ever. 

“The severe lack of social homes means swathes of people are barely scraping by as they’re forced to compete for grossly expensive private rentals, because there is nothing else. With food and household bills continuing to surge, the situation is precarious for thousands of renters who are one paycheque away from losing their home, and the spectre of homelessness. 

“The time for piecemeal policies is over. To jam the brakes on the housing emergency we need a genuinely affordable alternative to private renting. We know social housing works for most people because it’s secure and the rents are tied to local incomes. Instead of empty words,the government and every political party must sign up to building thousands more social homes.” 

Priscilla, 50, works full time as a school business manager in a nursey. She has two grown up children, one works as a chef and the other is at university.  

She has lived in a two-bed private rental for 15 years. In May Priscilla was issued a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice. Priscilla applies for properties all the time but is finding that landlords are accepting offers way above the advertised rent, or they are going to a bidding war. It is difficult for them to move too far out as neither of them drive and they need to get to work. 

Priscilla said: “I look for new properties every single day. Before I fall asleep, I will have a look for properties just in case there’s something, and I wake up early at 4 or 5 in the morning and look again and send enquiries. I’ve applied for over 20 properties so far.   

“I am stressed, anxious and depressed. I can't sleep and I can't concentrate at work. I am already making financial sacrifices; I don’t go out and I won’t be having holidays anymore. I’ve been in several situations where other renters have offered more than the rent advertised. At a recent viewing the estate agent said two people before me had already offered a year’s rent in advance. 

“I’ve talked to my son about all our options, but we can’t afford a deposit to buy when our rent is so high. An affordable social home would make a big difference. I would know that this house is secure, and I wouldn’t need to move after a couple of years. The thought of moving again is so stressful.” 

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Notes to Editors

About the research: 

All figures about private renters, unless stated otherwise, are from a YouGov survey for Shelter, funded by its charity partner Nationwide, of 2,003 private renting adults (18+) in England, including 1,401 who were struggling to pay or already behind on their rent and 1,498 of whom are in work. The survey was conducted online between 8th – 30th June 2023, and the results were weighted to be representative of private renters. Population calculations have been done by Shelter using English Housing Survey data. 

Private renters who would be unable to pay their rent for less than a month from their savings if they were to lose their job 

Statement Agreement %
Private renters who would be unable to pay their rent for less than a month from their savings if they were to lose their job 51% 
Private renters who wouldn’t be able pay their rent at all from their savings if they were to lose their job 34% 
Private renters who are struggling to pay, or already behind on their rent and say that an increase in rent payments is a reason 37%
Private renters who have seen a rent increase in the last year 55% 


Comparison data for private renters who were one paycheque away from losing their home is from a YouGov survey for Shelter of 3,561 private renting adults (18+) in England, 2,801 of whom were in work. The survey was conducted online between 6th August – 7th September 2021, and the results have been weighted to be representative of private renters in England. This survey found that 39% of renters would not be able to afford a months’ rent from their savings if they were to lose their job.  

Figures about social renters’ experience of living in social housing are from a YouGov survey for Shelter of 2,002 social renting adults (16+) in England. The survey was carried out online between 16th – 30th March 2023, and the results were weighted to be representative of social renters.  

social renters’ experience of living in social housing

Statement % Agreement 
Where I live feels like a safe, stable and secure home 67% 
Without my social home I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in my local area 76% 
Living in a social home enables me to stay close to family and friends 53%

About Shelter: Shelter exists to defend the right to a safe home and fight the devastating impact the housing emergency has on people and society. Shelter believes that home is everything. Learn more at www.shelter.org.uk.