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Latest Voice of the Tenant survey reveals changing rental experiences

The TDS Charitable Foundation has published its latest Voice of the Tenant survey (Wave 4). This is a regular 6-monthly survey carried out with a representative sample of over 2000 tenants. The results of Wave 4, which was conducted in March 2024, show how the experience of renting in England is changing over time.  


Wave 4 of the Voice of the Tenant survey revealed that the cost of rent rose by 7% between March 2023 and March 2024. This is a slower rate of growth than previously, however; Wave 3 of the survey showed that rents increased by 17% between September 2022 and September 2023. This supports other data which suggests that annual rental inflation in the private rented sector is easing slightly. According to the latest survey, tenants living in small towns saw the biggest increase in rent of 11% between March 2023 and 2024.


However, the data shows that a growing proportion of tenants are struggling to afford their rent each month. In March 2023, 35% of renters said they were finding it difficult or very difficult to afford their rent, compared to 32% in March 2024. As a result, more tenants are cutting back on other household essentials such as food or clothing (55% compared to 52% in 2023).


In March 2024, 14% of all tenants were in rent arrears, down from 16% in March 2023. As in the previous year, the findings suggested that the large majority (90%) of tenants in rent arrears will take steps to address the situation. Notably, one in two tenants now turn to family and friends for advice or financial support to deal with rent arrears – an increase of 18% since September 2023. There has also been a 4% rise in the numbers searching for online information since September 2024. This suggests that private renters are increasingly inclined to turn to unofficial sources for help to deal with rent arrears.


Security of tenure

Wave 4 showed that tenants are viewing fewer properties than last year. Twenty-nine percent of tenants had looked at just one property before deciding to rent, compared to 26% in March 2023. While just over a quarter of tenants had viewed more than five properties a year ago, this was down to 22% in March 2024. Other data (outlined in another blog) suggests that the gap between the supply and demand of private rented housing is narrowing. However, despite these trends, the Voice of the Tenant survey data indicates that the overall process of finding a property has not become easier. Half of all tenants (51%) said it was difficult to find a suitable property, a figure that has remained static over the past year.


Solving housing issues

Wave 4 of the survey included extra questions on how tenants solve housing issues and seek redress. The findings reveal that most tenants (86%) are reporting repair and maintenance issues to their landlord or letting agent, and in the majority of cases these issues were fully or partially addressed (83%).


However, when landlords or letting agents fail to address repair issues, tenants are becoming less willing to raise a complaint with their local authority or another established redress scheme. In March 2024, 20% of tenants who were unhappy with the response of their landlord or letting agent complained, compared to 24% in March 2023.


According to the survey, the main barriers preventing tenants from reporting their housing issues are linked to fear of the consequences, and these concerns have grown in importance in the last year. In March 2024, 24% of tenants who failed to report an issue said this was because they were worried the landlord might increase the rent and 24% said they were concerned about being asked to leave, compared to 19% and 13%, respectively, in March 2023. The shortage of accommodation in the rental sector and the increasing cost of rent means that tenants are fearful of losing their tenancies or rent increases.


With all the main political parties committed to reforming the private rented sector it is vital to avoid the temptation to think that simply ending Section 21 will address the challenges the sector faces. As this research shows, whoever forms the Government after the election needs to address the three key issues of affordability, security of tenure and improving property conditions in the sector.


The TDS Charitable Foundation is developing a “My Housing Issue” Gateway website to provide relevant information about housing rights to tenants and help those with housing issues to access redress and resolve issues consensually with their landlord wherever possible.

Read the results of the latest survey here.


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