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Housing cost worries hit highest level on record

Written by: Matthew Browning
Four in five homeowners and renters are worried about the cost of housing – the highest level ever recorded by a consumer champion's tracker.

A notable 79% of mortgage owners and 81% of renters relayed their concern over housing costs as part of Which?’s monthly snapshot of how the nation feels about the cost of living.

The Consumer Insight Tracker has been running for a decade and housing cost concerns are now at the highest level recorded by the group.

The increase in interest rates and soaring mortgage repayments have contributed to a sharp rise in the amount of concern among mortgage account holders. However, interest rates are widely expected to rise further.

For homeowners, half of those polled said they were worried about the cost of housing when asked before December 2021 when the rate hike cycle began.

For renters, the figure has increased from six in 10 saying they were concerned in August 2021.

Despite this rise in worry, the number of people missing housing payments has not risen this month. An estimated 630,000 households missed a mortgage or rental payment in the month to 10 August this year.

However, an estimated 2.2 million households missed or defaulted on an essential payment, which includes a housing, bill, loan or credit card payment.

And for two-thirds of the 2,000 polled who said they missed a household bill, this wasn’t a single occurrence.

As a result, more than half of households reported making at least one adjustment on their spending, such as cutting back on essentials, dipping into savings, selling possessions or borrowing.

Cost-of-living crisis ‘is far from over’

As a further base rate rise looms later this month, Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Although UK inflation is slowly starting to fall, these record levels of worry about housing costs and the looming threat of higher interest rates later this month shows that for many people, the cost-of-living crisis is far from over.

“We’d encourage anyone who’s struggling to seek free debt advice and reach out to their mortgage provider or landlord for help.

“As so many people face financial hardship, Which? is calling on businesses in essential sectors like food, energy and telecoms providers to do more to help customers get a good deal and avoid unnecessary or unfair costs and charges during this crisis.”

Following the results, Which? provided some guidance to homeowners should the cost-of-living crisis be having an impact.

What to do if you’re struggling to pay your rent or mortgage

Which? said you should start by contacting your bill provider to see if you are missing out on any discounted tariffs or reductions and if they can help you find a payment plan you can afford.

Energy providers should not just disconnect you and should help you find a payment plan you can afford or refer you to additional hardship funds. If you’ve a traditional prepayment meter and can’t afford to top it up, contact your energy supplier for help in keeping the supply going. You may be able to access emergency credit, but you will eventually need to repay this through a payment plan.

If you’re struggling to keep up with mortgage payments, again, speak to your lender as soon as possible, and remember, this won’t affect your credit rating. Lenders should be understanding if income levels have changed – such as if you’ve lost a job. They may offer a payment holiday, extend the term to lower the monthly payment or allow a temporary switch to interest-only repayments. Renters should speak to their landlords about their situation and ask if they are able to offer temporary help.

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