'Worrying' number of renters struggling to pay their rent and afford essentials like food

55% of renters are cutting back on food and heat to make ends meet (Barbara Gibson)
55% of renters are cutting back on food and heat to make ends meet (Barbara Gibson)

Private renters in England are finding it increasingly difficult to afford their rent and essential goods, according to a new report.

Over a third of private renters (35 per cent) are finding it difficult or very difficult to pay their rent, according to a survey undertaken by the TDS Charitable Foundation. This has risen from 32 per cent last year.

Tenants are also cutting back on household essentials, with 55 per cent reporting they had cut back on food, heating and clothing. These numbers were even higher (65 per cent) for households with children in them.

“Being able to afford a home should be the foundation for anyone to flourish,” said Dr Jennifer Harris, head of policy and research at TDS Group. “However, our data paints a worrying picture of the pressures many renters are now under and has implications for landlords with tenants in arrears.”

Cost-of-living crisis bites

Currently 14 per cent of tenants reported being in rent arrears, down from 16 per cent in March 2023.

Rents have risen sharply across the UK and especially in London, where rents have risen 11 per cent annually according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The average rent in the capital is currently £2,070, with a dwindling number of postcodes where rooms can be found for under £800.

High utility bills are also a factor, with 45 per cent of tenants finding it hard to keep up with payments.Rising rent, food prices and energy bills are all factors in the current cost-of-living crisis, which is well into its second year.

Students are particularly struggling, with 45 per cent reporting they are finding it difficult to pay rent.

Young renters are struggling

Young people in general are bearing the brunt of the renting crisis. Half of tenants are aged between 18 and 34, and while 69 per cent reported that they would like to buy a home one day, 46 per cent said they expected they would be renting for the rest of their lives.

Young people and students were also the most likely to have had to move between rental properties in the last 12 months, although 40 per cent of all tenants reported they had had to move in the last two years.

Landlord-initiated moves accounted for 19 per cent of these moves, up from 17 per cent last year. Forty per cent of tenants worry that they could be asked to leave heir home at any time.

This tracks with data that no-fault evictions are on the rise, with the long-awaited ban on section 21 stalled as the Renters Reform Bill in limbo ahead of the general election.

Poor quality rental homes are also an issue, with almost two-thirds of tenants reporting issues such as leaks, damp and mould.TDS Group said that a ban on no-fault eviction would not be enough to tackle the scale and scope of the current rental crisis.

“Whilst all the main parties have focused on ending section 21, this will not address the fundamental challenges many tenants face in affording their rents,” said Dr Harris.

“The next Government needs to avoid the temptation to reach for simple solutions. This means addressing the gap between supply and demand in the rental market, reducing costs on the sector and providing certainty about housing benefit levels to enable tenants and landlords to plan for the medium to long term.”