One in 14 people in Yorkshire fear they will not be able to afford to pay the rent or mortgage this month, according to a housing charity.

A survey by Shelter shows a large number of people are starting the New Year worried about whether they will be able to keep their home, as the cost of Christmas is piled on top of rising household bills.

More than a third (39 per cent) of people in Yorkshire and the Humber said they were expecting to struggle or fall behind with their rent or mortgage in 2014, while 14 per cent admitted to not opening post if they thought it was a bill.

Liz Clare, a helpline adviser at Shelter, said: “We’re now seeing a stream of cases of families who’ve been unable to cope with mounting rent or mortgage bills and feel at breaking point.

“We all know how difficult it can be to face up to financial problems and we often hear from people who’ve been avoiding urgent post, but the reality is that not confronting it means things can spiral out of control.

“One caller to the helpline arrived home to her rented flat to find the locks had been changed. She hadn’t realised that a court hearing had even taken place because she hadn’t felt able to open her post after falling into arrears with her rent.”

The charity said families appeared to be having the greatest financial difficulties.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Unless they get help, some of the families struggling now could face the very real prospect of losing their home this year.

“Despite recent discussion of an economic recovery, we know that a combination of high housing costs, wage freezes, and rising food and energy bills has created a nightmare scenario for many families that’s pushing them to breaking point.”

Councillor Val Slater, executive member for housing at Bradford Council, said she was concerned about the survey’s findings.

She said: “This is quite worrying, particularly about people throwing bills away without opening them.

“I really would encourage people to open bills and not be frightened but to go and talk to their landlord or mortgage provider and see what arrangements can be made. Very often steps can be taken that can help people out in a difficult period.”

Anyone needing advice can call Shelter on 0808 800 4444.