More than three million Britons fear they will miss their rent or mortgage payments in January as the cost of Christmas takes its toll, research from Shelter suggests.
One in nine people (11%) who were surveyed by the charity and pay rent or a mortgage said they are worried about being able to pay their housing costs this month, equating to 3.2 million people if the figures are projected across Britain.
Shelter said it has seen a surge in the number of people visiting its website for advice on rent and mortgage arrears, and is urging anyone having difficulty meeting their housing costs to get help as early as possible.
It said that worryingly, 26% of the people in its survey said they would feel too ashamed to ask for help if struggling with housing payments.
Some 59% of the more than 2,300 rent or mortgage payers surveyed in November said they were already struggling to keep up with their housing costs.
Shelter highlighted the case of a mother-of-two named Katharine from Yorkshire who works unpredictable hours and fears she will not be able to meet her rent payments each month.
Katharine said: "I work every hour I can to support my family. But each month I wonder if I'm going to able to make my rent, and I'm expecting things to be especially bad after Christmas - even though we cut back on spending as much as we could.
Nadeem Khan, a helpline adviser for Shelter, said: "I spoke to a lady recently who was sick with worry for months because she couldn't meet her mortgage payments and felt too ashamed to ask for help.
"When finally a court notice landed on her doorstep she came to us and we were able to help the family keep their home."
Shelter said that as well as seeking help, those who are struggling should always aim to make their mortgage or rent payments their "number one priority" and they should take action to deal with any other debts such as credit cards and phone bills separately.
The charity said it is also important to read all correspondence from the mortgage lender, landlord or letting agent and keep records of every letter and phone call involving them.
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