Renters and mortgage borrowers face increasing financial pressure

Christina Hoghton
Written By:
Christina Hoghton

The impact of the pandemic is beginning to affect many households’ ability to meet regular bills

One in 10 people with mortgages and one in five private renters have found it difficult to pay for housing in the past year.

More than twice as many people on furlough than not on furlough (17% vs 8%) were likely to have found it difficult to keep up with their mortgage payments. Almost a third (29%) of those on furlough had used savings to pay their mortgage or rent, compared to 17% not on furlough.

About 12% of people were behind with at least one household bill, with this figures to rising to 24% for private renters. Tenants were most likely to be behind with utilities (14%), credit card payments (9%) and other household bills (9%).

The figures come from the English Housing Survey’s Household Resilience Study, Wave 2 with surveys taking place in November and December 2020.

In November/December 2020, 9% of private renters were in arrears, up from 3% in the same months in 2019-20 before the pandemic began.

Some 3% of couples without children and 5% of households of unrelated adults were behind with one or more household bill compared to 37% of lone parents with children aged 15 or under.

Overall, 61% of households reported that their income had not changed since the previous Household Resilience Survey in June/July 2020. One in 10 (11%) reported it had increased by at least £100 per month. About a fifth (17%) reported it had decreased by at least £100 per month.

Similar to in June/July 2020, the self-employed were more likely than those employed full or part-time to report that their income had decreased by at least £100 (40% of those self-employed reported this, compared to 18% of those employed full-time and 23% employed part-time).

More households reported having savings compared to before the pandemic, but a quarter (25%) of households said that their savings balance had fallen during the crisis. More than four in 10 (43%) of those who are furloughed have no savings.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The pandemic has dragged hundreds of thousands of people the wrong wide of the resilience gap, and renters, self-employed people, lone parents and furloughed workers have been hit particularly hard.

“Overall, more households have savings than before the pandemic, and 13% of people have been in a position to actually put more aside, but those in full time employment and people who own a house with a mortgage are much more likely to fall into this bracket.

“Meanwhile, a quarter have seen their savings fall, and vulnerable groups are more likely to have suffered. People on lower furlough incomes and the self-employed who lost work have been less able to save. Meanwhile, those who rent are more likely to have eaten into their savings to pay rent.

“They’ve struggled with their bills too. Renters have found it far harder to pay their bills: one in 10 are behind on rent, and almost one in four are behind on at least one bill. Lone parents are most likely to have fallen behind with bill payments.

“There are no simple answers when you’re facing this kind of pressure. A year on from the start of the crisis, there are no easy costs left to cut. There are also signs that people have already made bigger changes to their lives to keep a lid on costs. Around a fifth of privately rented households have increased by at least one person, which is a sign people are moving in with others to cut costs.”