Worried about your mortgage or rent? A million of us are – here's what to do

Mortgages and rent payments are becoming a problem for one in four UK adults, according to new research

(Image credit: Getty)

Mortgages, rents, and bills are becoming a struggle for as many as a million people in the UK, in a worrying trend revealed by the HomeOwners Alliance 2020 Homeowner Survey. 

Covid-19 is causing housing issues for 22 per cent of the country's adult population, with nearly half of those issues (45 per cent) arising from difficulties paying the mortgage, rent, household bills, or worrying about losing our homes. 

Of those homeowners who are having housing concerns, being able to pay the mortgage or asking for a mortgage holiday topped the list of worries for 27 per cent. And for nearly one in 10 home owners (eight per cent), losing their job and having their house repossessed was a top source of worry.

Among other concerns, home owners polled as part of the survey highlighted not being able to sell and therefore being stuck where they no longer wanted to be, as well as being unable to move house. 

Unsurprisingly, the top worry that emerged among renters was being unable to pay rent, council tax, or other bills – 30 per cent of affected renters had those concerns, with many worried that even if they were not evicted now, the rent would still have to be paid after lockdown, leading to an eviction at a later date.

All groups, whether renters or home owners, reported difficulties arising from the negative effects of isolation, including poor mental health and the lack of space making working from home difficult. Some 12 per cent of all affected adults reported struggling with at least one of those side effects of being in lockdown. 

Paula Higgins, Chief Executive of Home Owners' Alliance, comments: 'We all know the measures to tackle coronavirus are of the utmost importance; saving lives must be the priority. But after just nine days of the lockdown measures being introduced our study shows the impact on homeowners and renters alike is considerable. 

'While we’ve heard from housing industry groups worried about their businesses, this is the first research highlighting homeowners’ concerns. Our study was conducted in early April, so it is highly likely concerns around paying rent, mortgages and bills, and the impact of isolation on mental health has rocketed in the subsequent four weeks of lockdown. That is why we are calling on the government to ensure the housing market is one of the first sectors to be re-started, once it is safe to do so. 

'The human impact and multiplier effect of getting the housing market going is clear: people can move for jobs, a growing family or to downsize. Mortgage lenders in turn will feel confident in lending to first time buyers with smaller deposits. And a myriad of different jobs can be revived, from house builders, conveyancing firms, estate agents, surveyors, removals companies, architects, home improvement firms and more, all feeling the benefits.

'However, it would be naive to think that lifting restrictions is all it would take to get people moving. The housing market is driven by confidence. That is why we are calling for a 12 month stamp duty holiday. This would incentivise families who can afford to move to get on and do so, giving the housing market and all the related sectors the kick start they need.' 

What to do if you are worried about mortgage payments

Talk to your lender – they should be accommodating. If you are already on a variable rate mortgage or coming to the end of a fixed term offer, you should be seriously thinking about locking in another low-rate, fixed term deal. Nick Sherratt, the director of online mortgage broker Mojo Mortgages, is emphatic in advising people to snap up a good deal quickly right now:

'For those who are about to come off a fixed rate term, [certainty] is absolutely a priority, because costs will go up and we do not want customers to incur any additional costs on a monthly basis right now. That should be top of the agenda for anyone in that situation.'

If you are a prospective home owner worried about getting a mortgage, you'll be relieved to know that lenders already are reintroducing mortgage offers. We've teamed up with the online mortgage experts Habito – use their free online tool below to see how much you could borrow,