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Only a quarter of those renting do so by choice says new survey

A new survey of tenants has found that only a quarter of those renting do so by choice – and over half (56%) said they rent because they are unable to buy their own home.

The Tenant Sentiment Survey from household agency Threshold also found that 61% wish to own their own home within five years, but only 30% expect they will be able to.

The lack of confidence in their ability to secure home ownership is clearly a major issue for those renting, the survey of 220 tenants showed. “When asked why they are renting their home, only a quarter (26%) of respondents said that they are renting by choice. More than half (56%) said they rent because they are unable to buy their own home, while 12% said they rent because they cannot access social housing,” Threshold said.

They noted that while 43% of 18-24-year-olds expressed a preference for renting, no respondents over the age of 54 stated that they rent by choice. Just a fifth (20%) stated that they wish to remain renting in five years’ time, but 41% expected that they will still be in this scenario.

Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold said: “This shows us that there is a huge gap between people’s aspirations and their expectations, as well as a lack of faith in the ability of the current housing system to meet these expectations. The finding that the vast majority of renters over the age of 24 would prefer not to rent is quite stark. As renters get older, the cost and long-term insecurity they face is a real challenge for them and, ultimately, for society. We are at a crossroads, with a huge shortage of affordable housing to buy or rent – most of our clients just don’t see a future that gives them what they need.”

When asked how secure they felt in their home, less than half (47%) of respondents stated that they feel secure; a third (31%) do not feel secure and 17% feel neither secure nor insecure.

Those renting their current home for more than six years were more likely to report feelings of insecurity, while those renting their current home for five years or more were more likely to report a negative relationship with their landlord.

“Research undertaken by Dr Michael Byrne in UCD, in partnership with Threshold, shows that landlord-tenant relationships are prone to deteriorating once the tenant takes action to address an issue in the tenancy, and the risk of an issue arising increases the longer the tenancy is in place,” Ms Hayden said.

While the majority (79%) of respondents have lived in the private rented sector for five years or more, only 22% have lived in their current home for that length of time. In fact, over half of respondents are in their current home less than two years. “This points to a high rate of churn, instability and lack of security in the private rented sector, with tenants facing frequent moves, often with little or no choice,” said Ms Hayden.

When asked why they had left their last rented home, 42% of respondents stated that they had left as a result of action by the landlord, the most common factor being the landlord’s intention to sell.

88% of respondents stated that, in their experience, it was difficult or extremely difficult to find a secure home in the private rented sector. One respondent stated that they had contacted over 200 landlords before finally securing a home; five respondents stated that they faced discrimination on racial grounds, and / or because they were eligible for Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

While respondents across all family types indicated difficulty or extreme difficulty in securing a home, when responses were broken down by family type, it transpired that one-parent families were most likely to find it extremely difficult to find rental accommodation (90%), followed by two-parent families (83%), singles (54%) and couples (46%).

A generally-accepted rule of thumb is that renters should be expected to pay approximately one third of their income on housing costs; banks apply a similar standard in providing mortgages. However, 51% of respondents to Threshold’s survey stated that they are paying more than 30% of their income on rent.

John-Mark McCafferty, CEO of Threshold said: “For those on higher incomes, paying more than 30% of income on rent may have little impact on their disposable income. However, respondents on lower incomes were more likely to be paying a higher proportion of their take-home pay on rent. When bills and other payments are factored in, some renters could face a situation where they have very little money left over for other basic living expenses.”

43% of all respondents to the survey stated that their income had been reduced on foot of the Covid-19 pandemic. Of those, just 10% had applied for Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) or Rent Supplement, while only 21% had registered as a ‘relevant person’ with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) in order to avail of enhanced protection from eviction. When those who had not registered were asked why they had not done so, the majority stated that they were not aware of the protections or the need to register.

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