Many could find themselves facing homelessness this year because of their huge debts, especially as defaulting on credit card payments could trigger repossession in the worst case scenario.
The survey asked if respondents had paid their rent or mortgage by credit card in the past 12 months. Some 6% of those who were liable for the rent or mortgage said yes – suggesting a national figure of more than a million people.
The charity is issuing a stark warning to people about the dangers of using credit cards which could result in the loss of their home. Credit card companies have to recover their debts and are not subject to the same rules as mortgage lenders. Once they obtain a charging order on people’s property, credit card companies can go back to the court for a possession order to force a sale to recover the debt.
Kay Boycott, director of policy and campaigns at Shelter said: "This is a shocking discovery, that over a million households in Britain are in such desperate circumstances that they need to borrow money on credit cards to pay for basic housing costs.
"If people are already struggling to the extent that they fear losing their home, increasing credit card debt cannot be the answer."
One of the biggest shocks is that 1 in 12 Londoners are resorting to plastic to pay their mortgage or rent.
Ms Boycott said: "It is absolutely vital that every single person using credit cards in this way seeks advice urgently to get the help they need to ensure they don’t lose their home.
"Shelter has a network of advice services across the country who are ready to give free advice on a range of subjects including debt and housing issues so we would urge anyone struggling to get in touch today. The sooner they seek help, the more options are available."
Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "Mortgages are a debt, credit cards are a debt. For all but the seriously financially savvy, using credit cards to pay rent or mortgages is a mistake that can store up mammoth financial problems for the future. If you can’t afford to pay your housing costs lumping up the borrowing is never the answer – far better is to seek help as soon as possible and start managing the problem.
"It’s great to see housing charity Shelter adding to the weight of non-profit debt counselling help for those in crisis; and I would urge anyone worrying about home related debt problems to get in touch with them – it should stop a few sleepless nights."
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