As the cost of living crisis deepens, there’s a question that more and more people are contacting our advisers to ask: what help can I get if I can’t find somewhere to live?
That’s because the number of people who can’t find or afford a place to rent privately is growing fast. Private renting is too competitive and too expensive. Whole new groups of people are affected. People who could find a place to rent before now can’t. Once upon a time, it wasn’t always the end of the world if, for example, your landlord decided to sell up and you had to find a new place. Now, being given a notice to leave can be a disaster.
There just isn’t enough rental housing to go around. There are reports that in some parts of the country, 13 people target every property to rent.
Lots of people can also be rejected without being given a chance to view a property – particularly people who claim benefits, don’t have a guarantor, are trying to rent with children, who face racial discrimination, are disabled, or who can’t offer more rent if a letting agent starts a bidding war. Recent Shelter research showed that almost 2.5 million people were struggling to pay their rent – a 45% increase since April 2022. That means that there are more people at risk of eviction for arrears and more people at risk of being homeless.
The upshot of this is that more people will need homeless help from their local council. However, we find that a lot of people don’t realise that they can approach their council. When people think about homelessness, they often think that being homeless always means sleeping rough. They don’t realise that people in a whole range of situations can count as homeless, or as threatened with homelessness – and that they can get council help as a result.
Shelter’s digital advice team has created a tool that people can use to find out if they can get support, by selecting the options which best suit their situation.
For example, they might be experiencing domestic violence. They might have been given an eviction notice by their landlord. They might be living with family or friends who have told them to leave. Our checker provides information specific to their situation and then clear navigation to advice about the council help they can ask for. People in some situations may be able to get emergency housing. If they know their rights, they can make sure that they ask the council the rights questions and get what they need.
You can find the homeless help checker here.