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4 in 10 renters stuck with landlords who refuse to repair problem-riddled properties

While 6 in 10 renters fear they will NEVER afford to own a home. Our latest Annual HomeOwners Survey looks at the litany of problems faced by renters and the options available to help them on the property ladder

The plight of those renting in 2019 in the UK is highlighted in the latest release from our Annual HomeOwners Survey, polled by YouGov and sponsored by BLP Insurance.

The survey of more than 2,000 UK adults found those renting face problems including:

  • living in poor quality properties (35%);
  • having a limited choice of rental properties (32%);
  • concern their property does not meet safety/ fire standards (20%).

Letting fees ban only solves part of the problem

The research conducted ahead of this month’s ban on letting agent fees found almost half of renters (48%) supported an end to upfront charges for things like inventories and reference checks. But while those concerns have finally been addressed in recent days, more than a third said they would like:

  • to be able to rent from a responsible housing provider (40%);
  • to see high quality safety and energy efficiency standards in their homes (38%);
  • the option of a longer tenancy (35%).

Basic repairs go ignored

And almost 4 in 10 of those renting are stuck in cold, damp properties with landlords unwilling to do basic repairs and maintenance.

More than a third of British renters have trouble getting their landlord to carry out essential repairs (39%); live in cold and damp properties (38%) and have anti-social neighbours (36%)

Paula Higgins, Chief Executive of the HomeOwners Alliance, says: “It is disgraceful that such high numbers of people living in rented accommodation are putting up with damp, cold properties and reluctant landlords who do not maintain their homes to the required standards.”

Unfair evictions

One in ten of those renting a home has been evicted with NO cause, one in six are on short-term leases with NO security of tenure (17%) and nearly one in six say their rent was unfairly increased (16%)

Want to own a home – but majority don’t think they ever will

The survey found that more than three quarters (77%) of the 4.5 million households renting their homes in the UK would like to own their own home – that is 3.5 million aspiring property owners. But the majority of them – 2 million (59%) – think they will never be able to.

Paula Higgins, Chief Executive of the HomeOwners Alliance, says: “We have a crisis on our hands. A majority living in rented accommodation desperately want to buy a home of their own – yet most think this is a pipe dream. This shouldn’t be the case in the fifth strongest economy in the world.”

Does the Help to Buy scheme really help?

Some help is available to assist those who want to buy their first home, such as Help to Buy, where you can buy a home with as little as a 5% deposit. It continues to be a popular scheme despite fundamental leasehold problems.

Some two thirds of UK adults and 64% of renters think that the Help to Buy equity loan scheme is a good idea in terms of helping first-time buyers get on the ladder as it addresses the major hurdle of saving a deposit. One in six (17% of UK adults and 15% of renters) think it is a bad idea. Criticisms raised around Help to Buy include:

  • “The problem is the cost of ownership of a home. All these schemes merely continue to support an overinflated property market.”
  • “Encourages taking on debt you might not be able to afford in the future. Only helps new builds so gives Developers opportunity to profit by increasing prices and discourages first time buyers from purchasing older properties so adverse effect on used property.”
  • “Prices have been put up because of this without increasing supply. Builders, developers, estate agents are benefitting. It’s a scam.”
  • “Help to Buy idea is good in principle, but has in practice been abused by developers… house buyers being manipulated into buying leasehold properties. Leaseholds are a money making exercise for developers and those who use Help to Buy are not always in a position to understand the on-going commitments and hassle that leaseholds involve.”

Shared ownership losing its shine?

Help for renters wanting to get on the property is also available in the form of Shared Ownership, where you can buy between 35% – 75% of your home and rent the remainder.

In our 2019 survey, less than half of UK adults (49%) and 46% of renters think Shared Ownership sounds like a good idea as an alternative to renting. A third (33% and 32% respectively) think it is a bad idea. Criticisms of Shared Ownership include:

  • “It’s expensive as you have to pay part mortgage part rent yet are responsible for the upkeep costs as if you owned 100% of the property and this puts it out of the reach of most renters.”
  • “The tenant is left paying three bills – mortgage for 25% share, rent and for the lease. This is not ideal. The real solution lies in building enough homes to meet needs.”
  • “The cost can be changed at any point, so impossible to really plan finances. Too many variables against the owner to do with costs changed at the whim of not only mortgage company but the company you are renting from. Extortionate cost despite lower deposit and have heard stories about poorly built properties causing problems. I feel it is an excuse for the Government to say it is providing “affordable housing” for most people, when it really isn’t. “

Build to rent on the rise?

We asked renters their view of Build to Rent. This relatively new scheme describes new build properties built specifically for renters and offers longer tenancies, a single, professional landlord and numerous concierge benefits. You can find out more here about Build to Rent. 

A significant proportion of renters we surveyed feel Build to Rent features would improve the rental experience and address top problems faced by renters. The features respondents describe as most impactful are:

  • 48% no additional up-front fees (for references/ inventory)
  • 40% renting directly from responsible company or housing provider (not private landlord/ agent)
  • 38% properties with high quality, safety & energy efficiency standards
  • 37% more rental properties available/ greater choice
  • 36% no eviction of good tenants/ no early lease terminations
  • 35% longer tenancy option 3+ years
  • 34% no rent deposit

Kim Vernau, Chief Executive at BLP Insurance, says:

“With no quick fix to the problems plaguing the housing market, a pragmatic approach that tackles issues from multiple directions is necessary. As potential first-time buyers continue to struggle to gain access to homeownership, it’s vital that real progress is made towards improving rental conditions.

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