One in two private renters struggling to keep up with bills and credit commitments

Average UK private rents rose by 8.9% in the year to April 2024, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). StepChange Debt Charity warns that this increase will heighten anxiety among private renters, as the Renters (Reform) Bill currently in the House of Lords does not address the issue of rising affordability.

The ONS data coincides with new polling from StepChange, conducted by YouGov, which reveals that 31% of private renters used credit to cover rent in the past year, up from 28% in January 2024.

Additionally, 50% of private renters have struggled with bills and credit commitments recently, compared to 40% of all UK adults and 44% of mortgage holders. Furthermore, 33% of private renters have reduced essential spending in the past year, compared to 26% of all UK adults.

StepChange is calling for the Renters (Reform) Bill to include measures to help private rented sector tenants remain in their homes if they face financial difficulties, alongside the proposed end to Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.

Peter Tutton, head of policy, public affairs, and research at StepChange, said: “We’ve reached a point where renting in the PRS is increasingly unaffordable, yet the growing scarcity of social housing means that more and more financially or otherwise vulnerable people have no choice but to do so.

“Sky-high rents and wider cost of living pressures mean millions of private renters are scraping by or relying on credit to pay their rent. Even with the Renters (Reform) Bill currently in the Lords, PRS tenants are given no effective statutory protection from eviction if they do fall into problem debt.

“While it’s important that this Bill is progressed with a clear timeline of when Section 21 will end, we’d like to see changes that would increase security for private renters, with protections from eviction that mirror those which already exist for mortgagors and social housing tenants. In the long term, we need to see a commitment to making housing more affordable and a clearer plan from government to reduce the risk of financially vulnerable PRS tenants losing their home because of rent arrears.”