Shelter: One in nine affected by housing payment fears

The housing charity said 26% of people surveyed believe they would feel too ashamed to ask for help with paying their rent or mortgage

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The Independent Online

More than three million people fear they will miss their rent or mortgage payments this month as the cost of Christmas takes its toll, according to research.

One in nine people (11 per cent) who pay rent or a mortgage are worried about being able to pay their housing costs this month, equating to 3.2 million people across Britain, according to a survey by the housing charity Shelter.

It follows research that showed, overall, six million Britons are thought to be at risk of falling behind with their finances this month partly due to expense hangovers from the festive season, according to the Money Advice Trust.

Shelter said it has seen a surge in the number of people visiting its website for advice on rent and mortgage arrears, and is urging anyone having difficulty meeting their housing costs to get help as early as possible. The charity said that 26 per cent of the people in its survey believed they would feel too ashamed to ask for help if struggling with housing payments. Some 59 per cent of the more than 2,300 rent or mortgage payers surveyed in November said they were already struggling to keep up with their housing costs.

Meanwhile, the Money Advice Trust, which runs the National Debtline, fears that many households will leave it too late and see their financial position deteriorate further in the new year.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: “Our new year message is simple. If you are dreading the arrival of that first credit card bill in a couple of weeks, now is the time to act.”

Shelter highlighted the case of a woman called Katharine, from Yorkshire, who works unpredictable hours and fears she will not be able to meet her rent payments each month.

Katharine said: “I work every hour I can to support my family. But each month I wonder if I’m going to be able to make my rent, and I’m expecting things to be especially bad after Christmas – even though we cut back on spending as much as we could.”

She added: “I’ve borrowed money from family and even had to stop paying bills to keep the roof over my children’s heads. It’s horrible to start another year not knowing if I can afford to keep my home.”

Nadeem Khan, a Shelter adviser, said: “I spoke to a lady recently who was sick with worry for months because she couldn’t meet her mortgage payments and felt too ashamed to ask for help.

“When a court notice landed on her doorstep she finally came to us and we were able to help the family keep their home.”

Shelter said that those who are struggling should always aim to make their house payments their “number one priority”, dealing with any other debts such as credit cards and phone bills separately.

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