The renters facing homelessness as soaring demand pushes prices sky-high



Property-hunters trying to rent fear being made homeless because soaring competition among tenants is leaving so many at risk of losing out.

Prospective renters are often finding viewings cancelled at short notice because the property has already been let to someone else, leaving them back at square one for months at a time.

Others are being forced out when their rents increase to unaffordable levels.

The gap between available rental homes and demand has widened this year, partly because rising interest rates have made buyers postpone house purchases, renting instead while they bide their time.

At the same time landlords have put up rents in response to soaring inflation.

One south London letting agent told The Independent the increased competition was leading to bidding wars among prospective tenants – and even between different agents working in the same office representing different would-be renters.

“Many prospective tenants are in full-time employment, they’re good tenants, there’s nothing wrong with these people, so it’s heartbreaking for us to have to tell someone they can’t have the flat,” he said.

“It’s not a healthy situation for the market to be in.”

The agent, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Private landlords are offering a product – they’re not just greedy.”

But tax changes had deterred some people from being landlords, he said, adding that in London at least there was no sign of the rental crisis easing.

Property website Rightmove revealed on Friday that numbers of people seeking homes to rent were 23 per cent higher in October than the same month last year.

Demand from prospective tenants nationally has increased every month since May 2020, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says.

But there were 26 per cent fewer homes available to rent in July-September than the pre-pandemic average, according to Rightmove. In London the shortfall was even greater, at 30 per cent.

Freelance researcher Siobhan Mitchell used to wake up in a sweat fearing she and her twin sons would be made homeless.

They repeatedly lost out to other would-be tenants when hunting for a home in Bournemouth, on the south coast.

“To even stand a chance of a viewing you have to fill in a form that explains your income and show your bank statements but you often don’t even hear back,” she said.

“People are taking places without even seeing them.

“After two months of this I was really panicking as the people we were staying with were emigrating.”

Eventually she was able to rent a holiday home for six months – but has to be out again in March and again fears being made homeless.

“It’s really stressful. You don’t have control over where you’ll live – it feels you’re very much at landlords’ whim. The pressure is intense.

“When my son was looking, he had a viewing but they called on the day to say ‘someone else gave us the money so there’s no point you coming to look’.”

Ms Mitchell, 52, was left in the dark as to the magic formula for being accepted by a landlord but she says she suspects favoured tenants are professional couples over 25 without children.

Homelessness charities say they fear a surge in numbers of people with nowhere to live, being forced out of their rental properties by the cost-of-living crisis and rising rents.

Earlier this month Shelter warned that this winter could be one of the toughest yet.

Its emergency helpline has been receiving more than 1,000 calls a day, with 70 per cent of callers saying soaring costs are making their housing situation worse.

Private rents have reached record highs. According to Savills, average UK rents were 14 per cent above their pre-pandemic level by August this year.

That month, 29 organisations from the homelessness sector warned the Conservative leadership contenders that without clear action, the rising cost of living and housing shortage could tip many more people into homelessness.

Property analysts from Savills forecast that rental demand will remain strong as long as interest rates remain high enough to frustrate aspiring first-time buyers, keeping them renting for longer. But they say rental supply is likely to rise again to help ease the high demand.



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