Almost two-thirds of private tenants are struggling or falling behind with their rent, claims a new survey by Shelter. But the slant it has put on its findings has been called into question.
According to the survey, a quarter of tenants (26%) have faced a rent rise in the last year.
Shelter’s critics were, however, quick to point out that the statistic still leaves a majority of landlords who have not raised rents.
And according to the LSL survey (see separate story), rents nudged down in February and total arrears fell.
The Shelter survey of 4,300 private renters – which claims to be the biggest of its kind ever conducted – also claims to show the ‘knock-on effect rising rents’ are having on family life.
These include cutting back on birthday and Christmas gifts, and visiting family and friends less. Some are digging into their children’s savings, while one in seven tenants are using credit cards to pay rent.
The Shelter study also showed 6% of tenants had moved because of a rent rise.
Shelter is calling for Stable Rental Contracts to be brought in. These would effectively give tenants longer agreements at stable rents.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said of the survey: “This is proof that the growing cost of renting is hitting families where it hurts, forcing them to make impossible choices about what they can cut back on next.
“When families are forced to resort to taking money from their children’s savings or paying their rent on a credit card, it’s a clear sign that sudden rent rises are pushing many ordinary families to the edge.
“If the Government wants to make life easier for ordinary families, it has to reform our expensive, unstable rental market.”
The British Property Federation said that the Shelter data shows that 74% of private landlords have frozen or possibly even cut their rents in the last year, and that the squeeze on tenants’ budgets is more a reflection of cuts in benefits, stagnant incomes and a general rise in the cost of living rather than rental inflation.
Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the British Property Federation, said: “These figures suggest that for most tenants, private sector rents are not rising at all, and official statistics show that nationally they are not exceeding inflation.
“Shelter’s stable rental contract has some good intentions, but it isn’t clear what impact it would have. For example, Shelter should clarify if it is calling for rents to be index-linked to RPI or to CPI.
“Even the difference between these two figures is very important because the consequences could leave millions of tenants or landlords financially worse off.”
The BPF conceded that the Shelter research, commissioned from Jones Lang LaSalle, accepts that most landlords do not raise rent every year, but usually only when a tenant moves.
The Shelter study can be found here: