Living Costs Crisis: 1 in 4 renters cannot keep their home warm, as fuel costs surge

Posted 24 Sep 2021

Soaring fuel costs, combined with a cut to Universal Credit and the end of the furlough scheme, are creating the perfect storm for homelessness to rise this winter, Shelter warns.

The charity’s concerns about the impact of rising household costs are underpinned by worrying new research it has released today, showing:

  • 26% of adult renters in England - or 5.3 million people - already say they cannot keep their homes warm in winter.

  • Over a third of private renters (36%) in England, equivalent to two million households, now receive housing benefit to help pay their rent – up from 25% before the pandemic.

Shelter’s warning comes as the furlough scheme is due to end on September 30, and the government plans to cut the vital £20 a week boost to Universal Credit on October 6, which has been a lifeline for people during the pandemic. Meanwhile, millions of households are facing a spike in their energy bills due to rising wholesale prices and a supply shortage.

Shelter is urging the government to take action to protect struggling renters against the imminent threat of eviction and homelessness caused by the current situation. It wants the government to reverse its decision to cut Universal Credit and provide a package of emergency financial aid for renters with crippling Covid-arrears.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The triple whammy of the furlough scheme ending, cuts to Universal Credit and rocketing fuel prices may be the final straw for many renters barely hanging on to their homes. We are facing a perfect storm for homelessness to rise, and the new Housing Secretary must get a handle on the situation before winter arrives.

“Our research shows that one in four renters couldn’t keep their homes warm in winter, even before this latest price hike. No parent should have to choose between putting the heating on, food on the table or paying their rent – but that is the reality for so many families right now. And our helpline is already inundated with calls from people who are terrified of being evicted.

“Renters urgently need a lifeline. The government must reverse its decision to cut Universal Credit and provide emergency grants to renters with Covid-arrears to pay off their debts. Otherwise, homelessness will regrettably rise.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  • Data on number of renters who cannot keep their home warm is based on the number of private and social renters who agreed with the statement “I cannot keep my home warm in winter”, from a nationally representative survey of 3,197 renting adults (18+) in England. This was carried out online by YouGov on behalf of Shelter between 6 to 14 April 2021.

  • Where quoted, the number of people/households in social and rented housing are calculated based on the English Housing Survey 2019-2020 published by MHCLG.

  • All data on numbers of households claiming Universal Credit are drawn from Department for Work and Pension, Universal Credit and Housing Benefit statistics, Statexplore, accessed August 2021.

Shelter advice for people concerned about rent arrears and/or rising living costs

  1. For any private renters facing eviction, the evictions process takes time and landlords must still follow proper procedures, such as giving tenants written notice. It’s only when that notice period expires that a landlord can apply to the courts to evict them.

  2. Making a start can make all the difference. Any private renter worried about their housing situation can contact Shelter for free, expert advice 365 days a year - through our emergency helpline, webchat service or dedicated private renting advice webpage. To get started, please visit www.shelter.org.uk/get_help.

  3. Respond to letters and phone calls: it’s natural to want to keep your head down and hope your renting worries will go away but it’s important to read everything your landlord or letting agent sends you. Keep a record of every letter and phone call.

  4. If you are struggling to pay your rent, speak to your landlord or letting agent as soon as possible. They may be willing to agree a repayment plan, reduced rent or accept a late payment. Just be sure to get the details of any agreement in writing.

  5. Find out about extra support. You may be able to claim Universal Credit to help with your housing costs. To find out what benefits you might be entitled to, you can use this benefits calculator, and Shelter also has an online guide to Universal Credit.

  6. If you're struggling to pay your energy bills, there are government schemes that can help you. We have details on our website of what schemes are available and who is eligible. You could also save on your gas and electricity bills each year by changing your supplier. If you rent your home, you won't need your landlord's permission to switch suppliers unless they pay your energy bills. Visit www.shelter.org.uk/get_help to find out more.

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.