Struggling households sell possessions to survive

9th September 2014

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One in ten households have resorted to selling their possessions in a bid to meet their housing costs, new figures from the housing charity Shelter reveal.

Over three million households are “teetering on a financial knife-edge” the charity warns, and only a small drop in income could put them at risk of losing their homes.

Analysis of Government data by the University of St Andrews on behalf of Shelter, found that one in eight households in the UK are both living on low incomes and paying unaffordable housing costs, putting them under huge financial pressure.

The research reveals that 625,000 people across the UK have already missed at least one essential household payment, such as a fuel bill.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, says: “Too many people wake up every day knowing that just one piece of bad luck could tip them over the cliff-edge and tumbling towards the tragedy of losing their home.

“Every day at Shelter we hear from people who, through no fault of their own, are finding it impossible to keep up with sky-high housing costs. It’s terrifying to think that many of us are resorting to avoiding bills or selling possessions in a desperate bid to make ends meet.

“The government must make sure families who are already battling to keep their heads above water don’t slip through the growing holes in our safety net, and into a downward spiral which could result in the loss of their home.”

Meanwhile, a separate study by the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) today reveals the insecurity facing many tenants as 55 per cent of renters say they have experienced problems with their landlord or letting agent over the past five years.

Most commonly, tenants complained about the amount of time it had taken to fix problems like heating and electricity.

Once these issues were reported it took an average of 36 days for the problem to be resolved.

Even before signing up to a property, 22 per cent of would-be tenants say they have  had concerns about their landlord or letting agent, although the figure doubles to 43 per cent in London.

The most common gripes were lack of clarity over fees,  agents not knowing enough about the property, being too pushy or not showing up to appointments.

Families on a knife edge, case study:

Lou, 42, is a mother of two who works full time, but finds that making ends meet is a constant struggle.

She says: “Even though I work every day and live in a small flat, the rent eats up so much money that it’s almost impossible to make do with what’s left over each month, and I can’t move because there’s nowhere else remotely near to work I could dream of affording.

“I’ve had to borrow money off my friends and family to cover my rent, and I’m always making tough decisions on what I can and can’t afford for my youngest. Things have got so bad that I’ve even missed paying bills because I had to put food on the table, and that’s when the debts start to mount up.

“It’s such an uphill battle. I’ve faced losing my home before and I live in dread of having to go through that again. The idea of losing my job just doesn’t bear thinking about.”

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