By Cree-Summer Haughton, ITV News' Here's The Story
Almost half of all private renters in England say they are anxious and depressed over how they will pay their rent, exclusive figures obtained for ITV News have revealed.
The survey by Shelter, the charity that campaigns for tenants’ rights, found 3.7 million people - 45% of the total number of England’s private renters - are suffering with money worries each month.
On average, more than 1,000 calls are made to Shelter’s emergency helpline every day.
Call handlers have received stories of private renters who are being forced into bidding wars as rents spiral and demand outstrips supply. Prospective tenants have described being "held to ransom" by landlords.
Fergal Mullan Wilkinson, 24, had to sofa-surf while battling the rocketing rental market in Manchester.
“We’d arrive at a viewing and they’d say, if it got into bidding wars, 'how much extra would you be willing to pay?' It was an extremely stressful time,” he told ITV News."When we eventually found somewhere to live there was no like excitement or joy. It was just kind of a relief.”Yet Fergal considers himself one of the lucky ones. Judged by the volume of calls to Shelter, he is right.
Eight in 10 (82%) of the callers to Shelter’s emergency helpline in the last six months are already homeless or at risk of homelessness.
The rising figure compares to around seven in 10 (73%) during the same period in 2021/22, according to Shelter.
And another demographic of people are increasingly feeling the pressure.
There has been an 11% increase in the number of callers aged 16-25 to Shelter’s emergency helpline in the last six months, compared to the same period in 2021/22.
Others like Issie have seen their rent increased while living in unfit conditions.
"My whole house are actors, and because we can't afford somewhere that's slightly bigger, we have severe mould," she said.
"It effects our physical health, a lot. I had basically a respiratory problem for a couple of months.”
She now has five jobs to pay for her portion of the rent."Of course, it has an effect on your mental health," she explained. "It's your home and you're living in filth because, you know, the people that are meant to be looking after you refuse to."
Again, Issie considers herself more fortunate than others.
“Luckily my landlord has eventually come and dealt with it. So many people (are) living with black mould in their houses right now," she said.
Issie said many of her friends are now without places to stay, including her boyfriend who has been homeless for more than six months due to the turbulent rental market.
Landlord Deshal Raja, whose family have around 50 rental properties, told ITV News the cost of living has forced their hand.
"Interest rates have gone up 3-4% so our costs have gone up… and we have to increase the rents,” he said.
Deshal has seen tenants who have had to leave due to rent increases.
He says it’s “been very hard” for them, adding: “Sometimes they can’t make the monthly payment on time so we say have a few more days to figure something out and we try to help them all we can.”
What can you do if you are in need of help?
Contact Shelter's emergency helpline
Call 0808 800 444 between 8am -8pm Monday to Friday, weekends and bank holidays 9am-5pm
If you are homeless, have nowhere to stay tonight, are worried about losing your home, or are at risk of harm or abuse in your home.
Who can you speak to if you need emotional support?
CALM, Campaign Against Living Miserably runs a free and confidential helpline and webchat. It also supports those bereaved by suicide, through the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP). Call 0800 585858 (daily, 5pm to midnight).
YoungMinds is a resource with information on child and adolescent mental health, but also offers services for parents and professionals. Text YM to 85258 or call 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am-4pm).
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