An estimated 700,000 UK households missed or defaulted on a rent or mortgage payment last month, according to data issued days before another expected rise in the cost of borrowing.
Missed housing payments were “particularly high” among renters, said Which?, the consumer body that issued the figures, affecting one in 20 tenants surveyed.
Mortgage holders’ and private renters’ finances are under more pressure, with the Bank of England widely expected to increase the cost of borrowing for households and businesses on Thursday for a 12th time in succession. Financial markets predict a quarter-point rise to 4.5%. At the same time, average rents have soared to fresh record highs, according to data issued last month by the property website Rightmove.
Overall, an estimated 2 million households missed or defaulted on at least one mortgage, rent, loan, credit card or bill payment in April, according to the latest Which? monthly consumer insight tracker, based on an online poll of about 2,000 people.
It said the 7.3% missed payment rate was in line with the level this time last year but higher than in April 2021 and April 2020.
However, the figure for April this year is lower than that for March, when an estimated 2.5 million households – or 8.8% – missed or defaulted on a payment.
Which? said “a significant number” of people missed mortgage payments last month – 3.1% of the home loan borrowers surveyed – as Bank of England interest rates continue to climb.
Bills – including energy demands and council tax – remained the most common type of missed payment among the population as a whole.
Three-fifths (59%) of those surveyed – equating to an estimated 16.6 million households – reported making at least one “adjustment” in order to cover essential spending last month.
Adjustments include cutting back on essentials, dipping into savings, selling possessions or borrowing. Two years ago the percentage stood at 35%.
Rocio Concha, the Which? director of policy and advocacy, said it was “very worrying” that so many households were missing housing payments, adding: “We’d encourage anyone who’s struggling to seek free debt advice and reach out to their mortgage provider or landlord for help.”
The consumer body has been calling on businesses in essential sectors such as food, energy and telecoms to do more to help customers get a good deal and avoid unnecessary or unfair costs and charges during the cost of living crisis.