Kent families losing their homes as rising interest rates force landlords to sell up or hike rents
Families and hard-working professionals face being booted out of their homes – as rising mortgage rates force landlords to sell up or hike rents to cover their costs.
Reporter Max Chesson spoke to some of those in Kent affected by the issue…
Teaching assistant Diana Parnell, from Deal, has worked full-time for 30 years – but now she faces being made homeless.
Her landlord is being forced to sell the property due to soaring mortgage rates, and the mum-of-three can’t find any other affordable accommodation.
Diana told KentOnline: “It’s very easy to say ‘why don’t you get another job?’, but why should someone in a professional job be forced out of the industry they love? The system is broken.”
The single mum is one of thousands of tenants suffering the knock-on effect of buy-to-let owners offloading their properties or drastically hiking rents.
She is currently paying £850 a month for a three-bed home in Deal but will soon be moving into temporary accommodation with her three daughters.
Diana says her landlord had to put the house on the market as rising interest rates left him struggling to pay the mortgage.
Bringing in £1,200 a month – earning less per hour than her eldest receives at Sainsbury’s – the 45-year-old has found there are no affordable properties available to let in the area.
She says she has been left with no choice but to rely on Dover District Council to find her family a temporary home.
“Why are hard-working professionals being made homeless?” she said.
“I don’t want to rely on my kids paying their own bit of rent to me to keep afloat, but it might have to come to that.
“I feel any working adult should be able to get a mortgage. I’ve been a good tenant all my life and have nothing to show for what must be more than £200,000 [in rental payments].”
Before moving to their current home 18 months ago, Ms Parnell and her family had rented another property in the town for 18 years. They had to leave that home due to similar issues with the landlord facing increased costs.
She now shares a bedroom room with her six-year-old daughter, while her other two girls – aged 16 and 18 – have their own.
But uncertainty surrounds what awaits the family next.
“I don’t know where we’ll end up,” she said.
“We could be anywhere, but we’ll have to leave our cat and most of our stuff with family and friends.
“I’ll take whatever I’m offered. We’ll make the most of it. We’re not fussy but we want safety and security.”
Analysis by KentOnline last month revealed how the number of homes in the county available for under £1,000 a month had almost halved in the space of a year.
Rightmove and Zoopla were advertising just 26 such properties – down from 45 last summer.
And according to property website home.co.uk, the average price of renting a house in Kent has risen from £1,355 to £1,418.
Chef Mark Pitcher, 42, faces the dilemma of having to find a new home to rent with his partner and two children.
He says their landlord wants to move into the property and has told them they will be evicted early next year – a move Mark appreciates at least gives him time to prepare.
They are currently living in a three-bed house in Deal for £950 a month. But with 75% of the family income currently going on bills, Mark says he will struggle to find a new home for less than £1,400 a month – the going rate in the town.
“An extra £400 a month isn’t possible – there’s not a lot of help out there and we do feel a bit forgotten,” said the former Army man.
“All of our money is taken up through rent and bills as it is. We’re stuck in a rut and we don’t get any help because the kids are older and we earn above the universal credit limit.
“Our kids are saving up but it’s hard to encourage people to rent when, if they do, all their money will be spent on that and they won’t ever be able to buy a house.”
While not immediately facing homelessness, Mr Pitcher believes urgent action is needed to protect renters.
“I’d like to see more security for people who rent,” he said.
“A long-term rental property should be classed as something bigger than six months.
“We’ve never missed a payment. I’d just like a bit of security to say ‘as long as we’re doing our, bit we’re safe’.
“It feels like we’re being pushed out. We’ve considered relocating but we don’t want to – our jobs, our friends, our lives are here.
“My partner doesn’t drive so moving away would massively affect her job. We’re all feeling the stress of the situation.”
Some of the country’s biggest mortgage lenders have pledged to cut rates on some fixed mortgage deals in a bid to protect property owners.
But the average five-year fixed rate has risen from 2.71% in January 2021 to 5.92%.
The Bank of England has warned the majority of four million homeowners in the UK would face hikes up to £220 a month more by the end of the year.
As such, renters are finding the bill is being passed onto them – with devastating consequences.
Emma Clubb, a full-time carer for her 18-year-old son with autism, is set to leave her Dover home of 15 years.
She says her landlord is no longer able to afford to keep her there – having already offered her a reduced rate of £525 a month to allow her son to reach adulthood.
Had the 40-year-old stayed as a private renter in Dover she would be looking at a monthly rent rise of at least £400 but has been placed into temporary accommodation – a two-bed flat – by the council.
“I get by – we’ve got enough to live but to find an extra £400 or £500 a month wouldn’t be possible at all,” shared Ms Clubb, who currently receives benefits and aid due to her work as a carer.
“I’ve no grudges against my landlord – he promised we’d be looked after until my son was an adult and he did that.
“But the mortgage rates have got so high that even a vicar who wants to do good is being forced to sell up – he’s not enjoying the situation either.
“I would like to see affordable accommodation for people in my situation. As sad as it is there are people in worse situations and god knows how many in my situation – we’ve been very lucky.”
As a result of being put into temporary accommodation, Ms Clubb claims she’ll have to put a lot of her things into storage – another additional cost.
The mum-of-one said: “For now I have to continue to bid on the council site but as it stands at the moment there’s no two-beds or three-beds.
“Last week, a three-bed had 87 bids on it – there’s not enough supply to meet the demand at all.
“We’re seeing people from afar buy houses on ordinary roads just like mine and not take care of the people in the homes.
“The rents are going up – we can’t match London rates so why are people being allowed to overcharge? People can’t afford it.”
The update comes as Canterbury Food Bank warns a 69% national rise in evictions in the first three months of this year is leading to an increase in demand for charities.
The food bank reported a 56% increase in usage compared to the same period last year – with enough food being distributed to make more than 9,000 meals in June.
The charity has also said in the Canterbury district alone there were up to 80 landlord claims for repossession during that time.
Richard Gates, of Saxon Shore Estate Agents in Faversham, said: “In my experience, landlords are always very anxious to try and protect their tenants with most being very good, genuine people – but obviously a private landlord with a mortgage is just as susceptible to cost-of-living issues.
“Rates have gone up, in some cases three-fold, so it can wind up costing them money each month to have the tenant in situ – a lot of landlords are looking to exit the market.
“We’re seeing about half of people choosing to sell, or choosing to make the books balance by increasing the rent.
“This causes further problems as there is huge demand with little supply and unless the government start building homes to rent in greater numbers it’ll only get worse.”