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Terrified tenants face ‘winter of destitution’ as rents and bills rise

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Renters are “terrified, knowing they face a winter of destitution” a leading campaign group has warned as Rightmove data reveals its most searched term is now “bills included”.

Renters desperate to save money and insulate themselves from rapidly rising energy costs have upped their focus on finding homes with bills included in the monthly rent, Rightmove analysis has revealed.

The property listings site said by the start of August, “bills included” had become the most popular renter search term, overtaking pets and gardens as a must-have for the first time.

Energy bills, along with the price of food, fuel and other day-to-day living costs, have already jumped by more than 50% in the past year.

Ofgem is due to confirm October’s energy price cap tomorrow, with analysts widely predicting the average household energy bill will soar from just over £1,900 a year to an eyewatering £3,500.

Renters searching, rents rising

Rightmove’s Tim Bannister said people looking for a new place to rent are also now casting their net over a much wider geographical area than before. The average search area in July 2018 stood at 70kmfrom tenants’ preferred location. That has now jumped to 137km2.

Bannister said although the number of new rental properties coming to market continues to improve, up by 3% in July versus June, the number of available properties is still currently 25% lower than this time last year.

The lack of supply is pushing up rents everywhere. Based on Rightmove listings, the average asking rent outside London is 19% higher than two years ago, up from £949 per calendar month to a record of £1,126 a month.

With no signs of easing Rightmove is forecasting that nationally rents will end the year 8% higher than last year.

Bannister said: “Renters are looking further afield in the hope that it will help them find a suitable place that they can afford. Although it’s not as constrained as it was a few months ago, the number of homes is still nowhere near enough to meet demand from tenants.”

He put the lack of homes down to more people choosing to stay put and sign longer contracts compounded by some landlords selling up due to more onerous taxes and others taking advantage of record house prices.

“Hybrid working shifting some demand to more rural and suburban pockets of Great Britain has also led to a fiercely competitive rental market in many areas with agents reporting that in some cases properties are being rented out in just a few hours,” he added.

It comes as almost half of private renters say they’ve seen their rent increase in the last year, according to Generation Rent research.

The campaign group said government must impose a rent freeze to “fight the cost of living crisis”.

The research found that one in five renters who faced a rent increase in their current tenancy were asked to pay more than £100 extra per month. Just over half of them paid it, 28% successfully negotiated a smaller increase, while 13% were forced to move out.

Energy bill agony

Concern about energy bills remains the highest concern for all renters.

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “With energy bills about to shoot up once again, renters cannot afford to be blindsided by an increase in their rent.

“The country faces the real prospect of millions of people being unable to find the money to cover rent, heat their homes comfortably and put food on the table.

“Ultimately that will lead to a further rise in evictions and homelessness. The government must intervene and temporarily stop landlords from raising the rent, as well as pausing evictions to keep renters in their homes.”