The housing charity Shelter has revealed that more tenants than ever before are now borrowing on their credit cards just to pay their rent. They reported that more than two million people have used credit cards to pay either their mortgage or rent during the last 12 months, a massive 50% increase on the previous year.
The research involved asking 2,234 people if they had borrowed on their credit card to keep a roof over their heads and 6% said yes, compared to just 4% the year before. Shelter believes the random sample could represent a national figure of more than two million people. The charity is warning that for all but the financially savvy, using credit cards to pay rent is a big mistake. Simply because paying off one debt while creating another is not the solution.
Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said “Our research brings into sharp focus the daily struggle faced by millions of people across the country to keep a roof over their head.
“This is a totally unsustainable situation and one which we fear could see thousands more families pushed into the spiral of debt, eviction or repossession and ultimately homelessness. It’s vital that every single person using credit cards in this way takes action to get themselves out of debt and seeks urgent advice from organisations like Shelter, to ensure they don’t lose their home.”
Eviction specialists Landlord Assist say that every landlord needs to take measures to protect their own interests. They highly recommend measures such as careful vetting and full tenant referencing when letting out a property. Taking out landlord insurance will also give protection against the non payment of rent. Landlord Assist is concerned that the problem will only get worse, especially if rents increase later in the year. The VAT increase to 20% combined with the expected rise in interest rates and the Coalition Governments cuts means the impact is likely to put tenants under increasing financial pressure.
The recent cold weather which saw snowfall across almost all of the UK causing temperatures to drop as low as -15 degrees, has resulted in an increase in the number of burst pipes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Scottish Water has been taking four times the normal level of calls from their customers looking for help with burst pipes. The Northern Ireland Water company say that the thaw has seen a rise in the number of leaks being reported and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water received over 5,000 calls on Boxing Day alone, this compares with 50 calls they would take on a normal busy day.
The ABI (Association of British Insurers) have revealed that burst pipes are costing over £7m a day and insurance firms paid out £644million to homeowners claiming on home and landlord insurance policies last winter because of burst pipes. Water companies throughout Great Britain are urging shopkeepers, factory owners and landlords to check on any empty premises in case a pipe has burst.
Dŵr Cymru’s Mr Perry said, “A number of pipes had been damaged because they were not properly protected, these should be repaired or shut off as it puts a strain on our system. If you have anything in the roof, or anything in an unheated building, the chance is that it’s going to freeze or burst.”
Dŵr Cymru also says that bottled water will only be available to those customers who registered with the company as having special needs. They would normally send a water tanker to any area without water, but the exceptional circumstances at present means this can not be done because there are so many different areas all over Wales being affected.
In Northern Ireland the worst hit areas include Belfast and Coleraine, with Belfast City Council opening leisure centres in order to distribute drinking water. Some streets in Belfast have had no water for almost a week. Scottish Water are working flat out to help get water supplies back on after mains pipes burst and the company have drafted in extra resources to help with the huge impact the cold weather has had on the water network.