NEW research from Shelter exposes the turmoil facing private renters in England, as one in 10 – equivalent to 814,000 adults – are now at risk of losing their homes. The figure rises to an estimated 1.1 million people if  children in the household are included.

To calculate how many people are threatened with losing their home this winter, the charity looked at the number of private renting adults who have received or been threatened with an eviction notice in the last month (474,000), as well as the number of tenants who are behind on their rent (411,000), which puts their home in danger.

The survey, conducted by YouGov and funded by Nationwide Building Society, showed that rocketing rents and rising evictions have left millions of private renters in England fearing the worst, with 3.5 million tenants (43 per cent) saying they are now worried about becoming homeless due to housing costs.

Shelter argues the severe lack of affordable social homes means that millions of struggling households are trapped trying to pay record high rents and keep a roof over their heads. A situation it says is being made much worse by the government’s nearly four-year freeze on housing benefit, which has left any support available falling far short of the cost of actual rents. The charity’s latest findings further expose the immense financial strain tenants are under:

More than two in five (43 per cent) private renters who are struggling or behind with their rent equivalent to 2.4 million adults say this is due to the increase in payments.

More than three in 10 (31 per cent) – equivalent to 2.5 million adults have borrowed money in order to pay their rent. One in seven (14 per cent), which equates to 1.1 million adults, have had their rent put up in the last month.

Esther works as a therapist and has two children, aged 11 and 19. She received an eviction notice earlier this year after her landlord asked for possession. Since then, there has also been a rent increase and she is now struggling to find somewhere she can afford to rent with her family.

“When I was told I needed to leave my heart sank, I’d lived in my area for over 20 years and the landlord put up the rent by £250. I tried to put on a brave face but I came under a lot of pressure. Each time I move it costs so much and is very disruptive for my children. My youngest has settled in school, is happy and has friends. When I moved last time, at least we were still in the same area with our support system. When I told her we may have to move again, she was devastated.

“I have searched for months but homes were either too expensive or couldn’t fit my whole family. I did everything I could, I approached letting agents, contacted the council and used Shelter’s advice pages. I was told so many things, that I didn’t earn enough or that the landlord wouldn’t accept kids or pets. One time, I put that I received Universal Credit support and I never heard from the agents again. Another, a housing association property became available but the council sold it instead. That was one of the many low days, I went home and cried.

“We now face homelessness and the unknown this winter, squeezed on all sides. I’m doing my best to protect my children for the storms to come. I just want a safe and secure home for my children to grow up in.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter said: “A terrible winter of evictions lies ahead as millions of renters’ grapple with runaway rents and the enduring cost of living crisis. Every day our frontline teams take more calls from families living the nightmare of rent rises they cannot afford. And every day we speak to more families facing the horror of losing their home.

“Shelter will continue to be there so that no-one has to weather this storm alone, but as more people are forced to turn to us, we need the public’s support more than ever. We also need the government to step in. With private rents rising faster than many people can cope with, the government must pull families back from the brink of homelessness by immediately unfreezing housing benefit so they can pay their rent and keep hold of their home.”

* People who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can get help from Shelter here.

* Source: Shelter England