The research reveals that almost 60% of tenants rent because they are priced out of the housing market, while the greatest downsides of renting are finding properties in a dirty state on moving-in day and unfriendly landlords.
In addition, only 30% of landlords carry out the annual gas inspection required by law and 58% do not have a fire alarm fitted, among other safety failings.
AXA’s survey looked at tenants’ motivations for living in a rented property. It found that there are those who have no choice: 59% told the survey they would prefer to buy, but quite simply can’t afford current house prices. At the other end of the scale, there is also a sizeable number of tenants – 17% – who say they choose to rent because they “prefer the freedom”.
The deciding factor in choosing their current rental property was the size (number of bedrooms), followed by price and being in a central location (near work and shops/amenities). When asked which feature they would most appreciate added to the property, the top answer (cited by 35% of tenants) was an outdoors area, such as a patio, garden or balcony. Use of a garage was the second most desirable feature cited by a quarter of tenants.
The biggest gripe among tenants was dealing with other people’s dirt and grime when they move into a property, the top complaint for 38% of respondents. Meanwhile, one in five tenants named décor issues – peeling paintwork or a bad colour scheme – as their pet hate. The most detested colour for interior décor was brown, closely followed by avocado green and orange. Even black, in fourth place, was considered less offensive than these colours.
Meanwhile, 15% of tenants said that an unfriendly landlord would deter them more than anything else.
The improvement to their current rental demanded by most tenants was better energy efficiency (through insulation, newer boilers, double-glazing, green technologies, etc.). AXA said this concern is unsurprising given government estimates that one in five tenants live in fuel poverty.
Tenants are not the only ones concerned about poor energy arrangements in rental properties: the government is also looking to introduce new energy legislation for landlords.
For instance, by April 2016, landlords will be obliged to introduce any ‘reasonable’ energy efficiency measure (like insulation, double-glazing, etc.) that a tenant requests. Meanwhile, by 2018, it will be an offence to let a property in the lowest energy efficiency categories (F and G), which currently applies to one in ten rentals on the market.
After poor energy performance, tenants’ top complaint was that their landlords do not pay enough attention to routine maintenance. 17% even said that their landlords had outright refused to carry out essential repairs when requested.
On the flip side, half of tenants had a high opinion of their landlord as an individual: given a list of options, 29% said he/she was ‘helpful’, and a further 20% described their landlord as ‘trustworthy’. Meanwhile, a minority – 13% – described their landlord as ‘greedy’, and 4% said he /she was ‘ruthless’.
Darrell Sansom, managing director at AXA Business Insurance, said: “It’s easy to present modern Britain as a world of greedy landlords on the one side and resentful tenants on the other – that’s certainly been the stereotype. However, we’ve found that their attitude to their landlords is largely positive, indicating that the problems aren’t caused so much by a bad attitude on either side, but just poor awareness of who is responsible for what.
“There are simple things landlords need to do to comply with the law and ensure decent safety standards for their tenants. Keeping an eye on your property must come first: we know that a third of landlords never visit their rental properties after a tenant moves in, and quarterly checks are only conducted by 17%.
“Too many landlords are leaving themselves open to serious property risks, and even prosecution, by not maintaining adequate fire and gas safety measures. Arranging annual gas inspections and ensuring tenants aren’t at risk of fires from old wiring are one part of the picture. Landlords are also going to face increased pressure from government to update their heating and energy systems in order to keep tenants’ bills down.”