Rent arrears are the UK's fastest growing debt problem

But one third of renters are still planning to buy in 2014

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The Independent Online

National debt advice charity the Money Advice Trust says that its latest figures indicate the UK is in danger of falling into a rent debt crisis.

The number of calls to the charity’s free National Debtline service from people with rent arrears between January and October this year was close to the 20,000 mark, compared to 8,000 over the same period in 2007. Calls from people with rent arrears have increased 37 per cent over the last two years, and 13 per cent in the last 12 months, more than any other debt type.

Joanna Elson, Chief Executive of the Money Advice Trust 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 at National Debtline, 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."

The figures come as a new Rightmove report reveals that a third of  renters in the UK are planning to buy their first home in 2014, a 6 per cent increase compared to 2012. Nearly a quarter of those say they are looking to buy as a direct result of phase two of Help to Buy or have brought forward their plans to buy because of it.

Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst said:"More renters look set to buy in 2014 but saving a deposit still requires time and commitment, meaning that overall tenant demand is unlikely to change much. It could ease a little in 2015 but the reality is that many first-time buyers will still be priced out of buying, especially with increased competition from buy-to-let investors attracted by solid rental returns and the possibility of increasing capital values."

Last month, housing charity Shelter warned that 80,000 chiildren faced the possibility of being homeless this Christmas.Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we're bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help."