Only 15% of private tenants are renting by choice – Threshold report

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91% found it difficult or extremely difficult to find rental accommodation
19% are paying more than 50% of their take-home pay on rent

Wednesday 11 November 2020 Only 15% of tenants living in Ireland’s
private rented sector are renting by choice, according to national
housing charity Threshold’s Tenant Sentiment Survey 2020. The
remaining 85% of respondents to the survey said that they rent because
they cannot afford to buy, or cannot access a mortgage or social
housing.

The survey was conducted between February and August 2020 and assesses
the sentiment and outlook of over 150 tenants in the private rented
sector in Ireland.

The vast majority (91%) of tenants reported that they found it
difficult or extremely difficult to find rental accommodation. 57% of
respondents reported that they are paying more than 30% of their
take-home pay on rent; nearly one-fifth (19%) are paying more than 50%
of their take-home pay on rent.

Speaking at the launch of the survey findings, Aideen Hayden,
Chairperson of Threshold said: “The findings of our latest Tenant
Sentiment Survey paint a grim picture of people’s experiences of
renting in Ireland, all of which need to be addressed by our
policymakers. We are particularly concerned about the far-reaching
consequences of carrying a rental burden into old age – in the absence
of adequate social housing provision, the State will ultimately pay a
hefty price in order to support older people’s housing needs by
relying on the private rented sector.”

When asked why they had left their previous rented accommodation, 43%
of respondents reported that they were forced to leave. 25% said that
their previous landlord had issued a notice of termination, either for
the purpose of selling the property or for the landlord’s own use.

24% of tenants stated that their rent had been increased in the
preceding 12 months; 44% of these had their rent increased by more
than 4%, the maximum amount by which rent can be increased in a Rent
Pressure Zone, which are now present in more than half of all
counties.

Nowhere to call home

70% of respondents said that they have lived in the private rented
sector (in one or more properties) for six years or more.

When asked about their current tenure, just one-fifth (20%) of tenants
stated that they have lived in their current rented home for six years
or more. 41% of tenants reported that they had been living in their
current rented home for 12 months or less. Less than half (46%) of
respondents said that they felt secure in their current rented home.

Hayden continued: “The survey results show us that almost half of all
renters are only in the first year of their current tenancy and almost
half were forced to leave their previous tenancy. Moreover, nine in
ten renters experienced difficulty in finding a home in the private
rented sector. Given these findings, it is unsurprising that people do
not want to live in the sector: the lack of security of tenure in the
sector is having a real human impact.”

44% of respondents to the survey stated that they wanted to own their
own home within the next five years. 32% want to live in social
housing; 14% want to be renting in five years’ time, but over half of
these want or need to do so with the support of the Housing Assistance
Payment (HAP) or the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).

53% of tenants said they had encountered issues with standards and
repairs in their rented homes. The most common of these were issues
with damp and mould, followed by lighting, ventilation and heating.

Covid-19 impact

More than one-third (31%) of tenants stated that their income had been
reduced as a result of Covid-19 restrictions. Only 37% of those who
lost income applied for rent supplement or HAP to help them pay their
rent. 10% of tenants surveyed reported being in rent arrears.

39% of respondents said that they felt less secure in their rented
home now, than they had prior to the introduction of Covid-19
restrictions.

“Many of those working in employment sectors such as hospitality and
tourism, whose incomes have been disproportionately impacted by
Covid-19 restrictions, are living in the private rented sector,” said
Hayden. “They face an uncertain future as they struggle to pay rents
that far exceed the cost of a mortgage.”

Commenting on the report, Professor Niamh Hourigan, Sociologist &
Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Mary Immaculate College, Co.
Limerick said: “The findings of the Threshold Tenant Sentiment Survey
present a bleak picture of renting in the private sector in Ireland
during 2020. Despite eviction bans being in place during both lockdown
periods, 39% of renters surveyed said they felt less secure in their
homes after Covid-19 restrictions being put in place.

“The results also demonstrate that the private sector still offers
hugely insecure housing to families and individuals, with a high
turnover of tenancies and rents which consume an unsustainable
proportion of tenants’ incomes. Most importantly, the survey
highlights the complete inadequacy of the private rented sector in
providing housing solutions for a large proportion of the Irish
population. The pressing need to provide affordable housing schemes
for purchasers and social housing built by the State for those who
will never be able to afford to buy, has never been more evident.
During the 20th century, successive Irish governments – who faced
considerable economic challenges – managed to deliver both affordable
housing to buy, and social housing to rent. One wonders why the
provision of this basic facet of human existence remains beyond the
capacities of 21st century Irish governments?”

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