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Private renters ‘almost twice as likely to struggle with debt than UK general population’

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Private renters are almost twice as likely to be struggling with problem levels of debt than the general population, with a sharp rise in the numbers in serious financial difficulty since January, research shows.The figures come against a backdrop of private rents in the UK hitting record highs, and days after the government announced a shake-up of the sector to tackle the “injustices” that many tenants are facing.The debt charity StepChange, which issued the polling data, said that “with so many renters in financial difficulty”, stronger protections for those who fell behind with their rent were required or else people would be left vulnerable to “hair-trigger eviction”.It said that while the renters’ reform bill announced last Wednesday was welcome, it did not go far enough, as many financially and otherwise vulnerable tenants faced challenges that would not be addressed by the proposals.The private rented sector was now “unaffordable, inaccessible and insecure for those on the lowest incomes, leaving them at high risk of problem debt, poor mental and physical health and prolonged housing insecurity,” the charity said as it issued a report.It also published a YouGov poll showing that 15% of private renters – 1.1 million people as of this month – were in problem debt, compared with 8% of the general population.

The charity added that this number had risen “sharply” – by more than a third – since January, when it stood at an estimated 800,000 people, or 11% of private renters.Signs of financial difficulty include using credit, loans or an overdraft to make it through to payday, falling behind on essential household bills, using credit to keep up with existing credit commitments, and getting hit by late payment or default

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