All the help available for renters struggling with the rising cost of living

A row of To Let estate agent signs placed outside houses in north London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 8, 2017. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Renters are struggling more than mortgage holders with household bills. (PA)

Renters are being pummelled by the cost of living crisis, emerging as the household type most likely to be struggling to afford housing costs and energy bills.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 39% of renters found it difficult to afford their housing payments between June and September 2022, compared with 23% of those with a mortgage.

When it comes to energy bills, which are almost twice as high as they were last year, 60% of renters reported finding it difficult to afford their bills in the same period - compared with 43% of those with a mortgage.

The findings come as rents surge across the UK amid an increase in demand and a shortage of supply.

The average household's annual energy bill will currently be £2,500, up from £1,277 last winter (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
The average household's annual energy bill will currently be £2,500, up from £1,277 last winter (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

According to a report from Zoopla this week, the average asking price for a new letting has increased by £117 per month in a year, pushing the average rent to £1,078 per calendar month.

Read more: House prices squeezed by higher mortgages as rents rise

Rents in London have soared even further, rising by 17%, an average of £273, in a year.

ONS data shows the average rent paid in the UK increased 3.8% in the 12 months to October 2022 - the highest annual percentage change since the ONS started collecting data in 2016.

Renters are more likely to be struggling with household bills. (ONS)
Renters struggling with living costs can claim support like housing benefit or housing payments. (ONS)

Here's what help is available if you are struggling with your rent.

Renting costs

Housing payment

You may be able to apply for a housing payment through the universal credit system - and if you are struggling to pay your rent, this is the best place to start.

It has largely replaced housing benefit and is now the main way for people to claim help towards their rent.

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To claim housing payments through universal credit you must live in the UK; be aged 18 or above (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17); be under state pension age; and have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments.

The government has a website where you can apply for housing payments, and you may have to have an interview at a JobCentre Plus about your claim.

Documents you may have to take with you include a signed tenancy agreement, a signed letter from your landlord confirming you live there, and details of service charges you are responsible for.

However, some landlords do not accept tenants who receive benefits to pay for rent so it is important to check before you claim.

Index of Private Housing Rental Prices percentage change over 12 months, UK and London, January 2016 to October 2022. (ONS)

Housing benefit

You may still be able to claim housing benefit to help pay your rent through your local council or as part of your pension credit claim if you fulfil certain criteria - such as being a pensioner or living in sheltered housing.

To be eligible you must be a UK resident, unemployed, and be on a low income with savings below £16,000.

To apply, you will need to know how much rent you pay, what is included in your rent (such as water, gas, or electricity), any service charges, and your landlord or agent's details.

You will have to provide evidence including: your most recent payslips; bank or building society statements for the last two full months; proof of other income or investments; proof of income for any non-dependents living with you.

You will also have to provide proof of your partner's name and address if you have one, as well as two forms of identification - such as a driving license, passport, or a utility bill.

More details can be found on the government's website.

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60% renters have reported finding it difficult to afford their energy bills. (PA)

Help paying tenancy deposit

Your local council might be able to cover the cost of your deposit through a rent deposit scheme or rent guarantee scheme if you can't afford to come up with the lump sum.

A rent deposit scheme lends you money in advance to pay a tenancy deposit, which you’ll pay back over time.

The arrangement gives your landlord a written guarantee instead of a cash - and if you have problems paying your deposit, the scheme provider will use the bond to pay your landlord.

However, you may have to repay the scheme provider any money paid out through the bond.

You might also be able to get a deposit through a homelessness prevention fund or social services - but you may need to pay the money back over time depending on your council, and eligibility may differ by area.

The government has a website where you can find out which one is your local council.

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Discretionary housing payment

The discretionary housing payment (DHP) scheme is for England and Wales only, and provides assistance for people impacted by the benefit cap, the bedroom tax, or local housing allowance rates.

The DHP can cover costs for:

  • a rent shortfall

  • rent deposits

  • rent in advance if you need to move home

Each council has its own process for providing the DHP, and the government has a specific website to direct you to the right one for you.

Watch: Sadiq Khan speaking on Good Morning Britain about the renting crisis