Nearly half a million renters behind on their rent: UK housing crisis victims fear homelessness

Data shared with the Tonight programme by Rightmove shows the average monthly rent is now £1,200, up 10% in just one year Credit: ITV News

More than 200,000 private renters in Britain are in the process of being evicted, or face eviction, and the average monthly rent is now £1,200, according to new figures.  ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt has spoken to some of the people who may lose their homes.

Mary Croft lies awake at night, wondering how she is going to keep a roof over her head. 

She is 75, her husband Dougie was diagnosed with dementia last year. She tells me they have worked all their lives, but now they are seriously struggling.   

The cost of food, fuel and energy is all going up but so too crucially is the rent they pay on the home in Leigh they’ve lived in for 24 years. 

“I was paying £390 and it went up to £497 in one go,” says Mary. “I can't do that. I cannot pay that rent much. It's just too much.  

“This our home. We are settled here. Nobody’s listening to the poor people around here because they just don't care.” 

  • Private renter Mary Croft has suddenly seen her rent go up £117 in a month

A few streets along on the same Greater Manchester estate, Nicola Serventi has the same fears. Her rent has also gone up by more than £100 per month. 

“It's money. I can't afford. I don't know where I'm going to find it,” she tells me. 

“I'm terrified of the eviction notice coming through, if I can't find anywhere I could be made homeless. 

“You have got to choose whether to pay rent, to put heat and electricity on, whether to eat, because food is not cheap. I don’t where the extra money is going come from. It's devastating.” 

  • "It's tearing the community apart," Nicola Serventi's rent has gone up more than £100 a month

Their landlord, Revive Homes, says the properties need significant structural work, which requires a rise in rent.  

They say residents can speak to the services manager to discuss support available - and that they've worked to keep the increase within local housing allowance rates.  

This, though, is a national crisis.  

Data shared with the Tonight programme by Rightmove shows the average monthly rent is now £1,200 - up 10 per cent in just one year.  

The last twelve months have seen a 94 per cent increase in competition for private rental properties.   

For renters, the current cost of living crisis is making a big problem even worse. 

One in five households in Britain now rent from a private landlord - that's doubled in 20 years - but some might say legislation now favours the landlords over the tenant.  There are few protections for tenants whose landlord wishes to evict them, and increasingly fewer alternative, affordable places to live.   

KrystalRose is 27 and knows more than most the true reality of private renting.   

In October, she and her three-year-old daughter were evicted from their home in London for the second time in three years.  

“I thought, what am I going to do? Where am I going live? Where am I going to go?” asks KrystalRose.    

“I started looking at private properties, I started calling up estate agents, and when I did find somewhere, the rent was too high, so it was unaffordable.”   

KrystalRose was served with a ‘no-fault’ eviction notice, sometimes called a Section 21 notice. She was given no reason why the landlord wanted the property back, and had eight weeks to move out.

The mother and daughter were eventually placed in another privately-rented flat by their local council, but that is in a tower block that is set to be demolished. 

  • KrystalRose says stability is "all she's ever wanted" for her three-year-old daughter

“Unfortunately being in the private sector means you will never have a secure home,” she says.  

“The landlord can take it from you at the click of their fingers. And there's nothing you can do about it.” 

For much of the coronavirus pandemic, the government put in place a ban on evictions. That ban was lifted in the summer of 2021, and there are now warnings a tsunami of evictions is about to hit. 

Polling by Citizen’s Advice, shared exclusively with the Tonight programme, sheds some light on the true scale of the problem.   

The survey indicates more than 200,000 private rental households have either been served an eviction notice since June or told to expect one in the next six months.     

And 425,000 households are behind on their rent – two thirds say that’s because of Covid.     

“The figures are shocking,” says Mathew Upton. 

“We're seeing the highest number of people coming to us with problems with evictions ever. This is happening now before the cost of living squeeze has really started to bite, and our worry is that the scale we're seeing now is only going to accelerate and cause a real spike in evictions.” 

Beyond the current cost of living crisis, campaigners want to see long-term reform to the private-rental sector to ensure tenants have more rights and protections.

The government has promised to ban no-fault evictions, but that was in April 2019.  

  • Michael Gove tells Daniel Hewitt the government "proposes to make sure" it honours its manifesto promise

I asked the Housing Secretary Michael Gove MP when that will become law, but he wasn’t able to give us a precise date.  

“I don't want to criticise any of my predecessors, but there's a determination on my part to get things done,” says Mr Gove. 

“We propose to legislate and we propose to make sure that the promise that was there, you quite rightly point out in our manifesto is honoured.” 

On the lack of social housebuilding, he admitted the government’s record was “not good enough” and committed to building more than 6,000 next year. 

“We haven't built enough homes. We haven't built enough affordable homes but the Chancellor’s made available a significant amount of money, more than £11 billion, in order to increase the number of affordable homes.”  

'Losing Your Home: The True Cost – Tonight', will air at 20:30 on Thursday 17th March on ITV and is available after on the ITV Hub.