Rent arrears are Britain’s leading debt problem with charity helplines receiving hundreds of calls a day from tenants seeking help.
National Debtline, one of the country’s leading financial charities, says the number of calls about rent arrears has soared by nearly 150% in the past seven years.
In 2007, the helpline answered 8,000 rent arrear calls from tenants a year. The latest figures show that number has risen to around 20,000 a year.
Calls from tenants owing rent to landlords have surged by nearly 40% in the past two years and 13% in just the last 12 months.
Tenants also tend to suffer wider ranging debt problems and account for nearly 60% of callers to the charity, compared to fewer than 45% in 2010.
Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, which runs National Debtline, said: “The long-term trend for rising rent prices is clear and its impact on the debt landscape is significant. Rent arrears are now the fastest growing debt problem we help people with and we are in danger of falling into a rent debt crisis.
“Housing costs are the most important household bill of all, and to see such increasing numbers of people falling behind on rent payments is indicative of how the cost of living squeeze has hit many families very hard since 2007. We hear from thousands of people every month about the difficult decisions they have to make just to hold their family finances together.”
Elson also explained that tenants in rent arrears face eviction and homelessness and are among the most vulnerable people in society.
“Anyone who cannot pay their rent needs free and impartial advice as soon as they can,” she said.
“If buy to let landlords are facing financial problems because their tenants have rent arrears, they can also get free advice from Business Debtline.”