Many landlords are planning to change their policies on renting to younger tenants, which could mean they find it harder to find decent accommodation.
Most landlords are willing to take on younger tenants, but about one-third of those surveyed are changing their letting strategy, according to research commissioned by the Residential Landlords Association. Sheffield Hallam University, which carried out the survey on the association’s behalf, found 79% of landlords who let to the under-35s felt they had a higher risk of rent arrears. Two-thirds were unwilling to let to under-35s on housing benefit or universal credit, while 44% did not want to take on students.
To encourage them to increase lettings to younger people, landlords called for recent tax increases to be reversed, tax relief for longer tenancies, and housing costs under welfare payments to be paid directly to landlords. They were also keen to see bond or rent deposit schemes set up where organisations, such as local authorities and charities, could offer loans to tenants which would cover the cost of any deposits. The research showed that landlords’ biggest fear was that they would not get paid.
Obviously, their fears need to be taken on board, because increasing numbers of young people, known as Generation Rent, will be tenants rather than property owners. The Resolution Foundation said home ownership is becoming the preserve of older or well-off people, with under-35s facing the prospect of being permanent renters. In 1998, 22% of under-35s on modest incomes were renting, but that figure has risen to 53% today. With these modest-income households having to spend 22 years to raise a deposit for a house, up from three years in the 1990s, it is no wonder that owning a home is out of reach for so many people.
The high price of properties and the flexibility of renting means they are more likely to seek rented accommodation for many years, if not forever. Research by Housing Hand, which runs a guarantor service for students and working professionals, shows that it is becoming more difficult for young people to secure accommodation because of rising rent prices, household debt and a poor credit history. The organisation argues that landlords should not base their decisions about younger tenants on gut feelings, but should carry out referencing of tenants. Then they could make their decision on individual cases, by finding out their personal credit history, salary and track record, rather than using a generalisation of a particular age group.
Another way to make this age group more attractive to landlords would be to offer an alternative to tenancy deposits, such as insurance schemes. Instead of paying a deposit equal to one or two months’ rent, tenants could pay a non-refundable fee, of one week’s rent, for example, to provide insurance cover. This would compensate the landlord for any damages, unpaid rent or cleaning costs. This would make renting more affordable for tenants, who do not have to find a deposit plus one month’s rent in advance when they move in, and it would give the landlord reassurance that they can reclaim any financial costs if necessary.