Only 15pc of private tenants are renting by choice – survey

High rents, lack of security, and problems getting repairs completed in rented homes are among the issues highlighted in new Threshold report

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Fiona Dillon

A new survey has painted a ‘grim picture’ of how people are experiencing the costly rental market here, with nearly one in five handing over half their take-home pay.

The national housing charity Threshold said its new survey found that only 15pc of tenants living in Ireland’s private rented sector are renting by choice.

The Tenant Sentiment Survey 2020 found the remaining 85pc of respondents 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 assessed the outlook of over 150 tenants in the private rental sector in Ireland.

The vast majority of tenants (91pc) reported that they found it difficult or extremely difficult to find rental accommodation.

Meanwhile, 57pc reported that they are paying more than 30pc of their take-home pay on rent and nearly one fifth are paying more than 50pc of their take-home pay on rent.

Aideen Hayden, chairperson of Threshold said: “The findings of our latest Tenant Sentiment Survey paint a grim picture of people’s experience 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 rental sector."

She said that nine in 10 renters experienced difficulty in finding a home in the sector. “Given these findings, it is unsurprising that people do not want to live in the sector. The lack of security of tenure is having a real human impact.”

When asked why they had left their previous rented accommodation, 43pc reported that they were forced to leave.

A total of 25pc said their previous landlord had issued a notice of termination either for the purpose of selling the property or for the landlord’s own use.

The survey also revealed that 24pc of tenants said their rent had been increased in the preceding 12 months; 44pc of these had their rent increased by more than 4pc, the maximum amount by which rent can be increased in a Rent Pressure Zone, which are now in place in more than half of all counties.

The survey also showed that many people are living in rented properties for long periods. A total of 70pc reported they have lived in the private rental sector for six years or more.

Just one fifth (20pc) said they had lived in their current rented home for six years or more, and 41pc of tenants reported that they had been living in their current rented home for 12 months or less.

Less than half (46pc) of respondents said they felt secure in their current rented home.

More than half of tenants (53pc) said they had experienced issues with standards of repairs in their rented homes. The most common of these were issues with damp and mould, followed by lighting, ventilation and heating.

More than one third (31pc) said that their income was reduced as a result of Covid-19, but only 37pc of those who lost income applied for rent supplement or HAP to help them pay their rent.

One in 10 of tenants surveyed said that they were in rent arrears.

Professor Niamh Hourigan, sociologist and vice-present of academic affairs at Limerick’s Mary Immaculate College, said that the findings of the survey presented a bleak picture of renting in the private sector in Ireland during 2020.

"Despite eviction bans being in place during both lockdown periods, 39pc of renters surveyed said they felt less secure in their homes after Covid-19 restrictions were put in place.

"The survey also demonstrates 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.”

She said there is a 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.

A total of 44pc of respondents in the survey said that they wanted to own their own home within the next five years.

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