New research conducted by insurance firm, AXA Insurance, has discovered that future elections will be greatly influenced by Britain’s growing number of private renters. A noticeable boost from previous elections, 53 per cent of private tenants voted in 2017, which would rise to a turnout of 69 per cent should a snap election be called in 2018. The study questioned 2,000 renters across the UK, and claims there is widespread financial anxiety among tenants, which will be likely to fuel increased political engagement. 72 per cent of tenants questioned admitted to suffering from financial anxiety, defined as affecting their health, relationships or sleep. This exceeds the high level of anxiety experienced by the population of Britain, which is at 68 per cent on average.
The biggest cause for this anxiety was their lack of ability to save enough money for a deposit for a home, which accounted for 59 per cent of tenants questioned as part of the survey. A further 30 per cent of tenants claimed bills, tenure insecurity and debts contributed to their anxiety. As of August 2018, a tenant renting privately could expect to save around £102 each month, on average, with a quarter of tenants unable to save anything. The biggest factor appears to be gender, as female tenants on average save around a third less each month than men. Scotland and Wales are also areas were lower savings are achieved, as monthly provisions fell to £60 and £84 respectively.
As a result of this, around two thirds of renters below the age of 35 are considering cheaper options instead of renting, with the majority considering a move back to their parent’s property, at 28 per cent. Sub-letting, moving to non-traditional homes such as outhouses or motorhomes, and caretaking property were also emerging popular solutions for tenants.
AXA Insurance claims that any measures which help tenants save more money are likely to have most resonance when voting takes place in the future. Rent controls linked to average incomes or inflation is the most popular proposal for solving the UK’s housing crisis among renters, and was mentioned by 69 per cent of tenants surveyed. Raising the taxes for private landlords, however, was preferred by only 8 per cent of tenants.
There are concerns that rent controls do not work, and many tenants currently renting are unaware of their effect when last introduced in the 1980s. When controls were introduced in the private rented sector, it went from supplying 90 per cent of housing for the population, to only 7 per cent. When rent controls come into effect, the amount of available housing drops significantly, with conditions within properties deteriorating dramatically. Successive governments, agents and landlords have worked hard over the past 30 years to improve rental property conditions, and many feel that rental controls would be a significant step backwards. To bring rent prices down, a concerted effort in house building would increase stock to meet ever-growing demand.
There are no current plans to introduce rent controls, and the government has begun consultation on introducing three-year minimum tenancies. This was greeted with an unenthusiastic response, and when asked, 62 per cent of tenants claimed they would prefer a tenancy agreement of a maximum of one year.
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