Share

Only a quarter of those renting in Ireland do so by choice – Threshold report

1 July 2021

  • Over half (56%) said they rent because they are unable to buy their own home
  • 61% wish to own their own home within five years, but only 30% expect they will be able to
  • Less than half (47%) feel secure in their rented home
  • 88% found it difficult or extremely difficult to find a secure home

Just a quarter (26%) of private renters surveyed by Threshold are renting by choice, the national housing charity reveals today. Threshold’s Tenant Sentiment Survey 2021 found that, while most renters would prefer to own their own home, most expect that they will not be able to do so within in the next five years.

Threshold will present the findings of its latest Tenant Sentiment Survey at an online conference today in partnership with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) entitled, ‘The private rental sector in Ireland: through the pandemic and beyond’. The report includes the findings of a survey of over 220 of Threshold’s clients, as well as the agency’s recommendations for government on the back of this.

Experience of renting

When asked why they are renting their home, only a quarter (26%) of respondents said that they are renting by choice. More than half (56%) said they rent because they are unable to buy their own home, while 12% said they rent because they cannot access social housing.

When responses to this question were broken down by age cohort, the greatest preference for renting was evident among 18-24-year-olds (43%). The majority of 25-34-year-olds (55%), 35-44-year-olds (68%) and 45-54-year-olds (50%) stated that they rent because they are unable to buy their own home. No respondents over the age of 54 stated that they rent by choice.

Respondents were asked where they would like to be living in five years’ time, versus where they expect they will be living in that time. 61% of respondents stated that they would like to own their own home in five years’ time; however, just 30% expected that they will own their own home by then. Similarly, just a fifth (20%) stated that they wish to remain renting in five years’ time, but 41% expected that they will still be in this scenario.

Commenting on these findings, Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold said: “This shows us that there is a huge gap between people’s aspirations and their expectations, as well as a lack of faith in the ability of the current housing system to meet these expectations. The finding that the vast majority of renters over the age of 24 would prefer not to rent is quite stark. As renters get older, the cost and long-term insecurity they face is a real challenge for them and, ultimately, for society. We are at a crossroads, with a huge shortage of affordable housing to buy or rent – most of our clients just don’t see a future that gives them what they need.”

Security of tenure

When asked how secure they felt in their home, less than half (47%) of respondents stated that they feel secure; a third (31%) do not feel secure and 17% feel neither secure nor insecure.

Those renting their current home for more than six years were more likely to report feelings of insecurity, while those renting their current home for five years or more were more likely to report a negative relationship with their landlord. “It could be easily assumed that a tenant who has rented from a landlord for an extended period of time would be more likely to have a positive relationship with the landlord,” said Hayden. “To the contrary, however, it appears that tenants who have been renting longer may be regarded as more ‘seasoned’ tenants and thus, more likely to challenge their landlord, which often negatively affects the relationship. Research undertaken by Dr Michael Byrne in UCD, in partnership with Threshold, shows that landlord-tenant relationships are prone to deteriorating once the tenant takes action to address an issue in the tenancy, and the risk of an issue arising increases the longer the tenancy is in place.”

While the majority (79%) of respondents have lived in the private rented sector for five years or more, only 22% have lived in their current home for that length of time. In fact, over half of respondents are in their current home less than two years. “This points to a high rate of churn, instability and lack of security in the private rented sector, with tenants facing frequent moves, often with little or no choice,” said Hayden.

When asked why they had left their last rented home, 42% of respondents stated that they had left as a result of action by the landlord, the most common factor being the landlord’s intention to sell.

Availability & affordability

88% of respondents stated that, in their experience, it was difficult or extremely difficult to find a secure home in the private rented sector. One respondent stated that they had contacted over 200 landlords before finally securing a home; five respondents stated that they faced discrimination on racial grounds, and / or because they were eligible for Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

While respondents across all family types indicated difficulty or extreme difficulty in securing a home, when responses were broken down by family type, it transpired that one-parent families were most likely to find it extremely difficult to find rental accommodation (90%), followed by two-parent families (83%), singles (54%) and couples (46%).

A generally-accepted rule of thumb is that renters should be expected pay approximately one third of their income on housing costs; banks apply a similar standard in providing mortgages. However, 51% of respondents to Threshold’s survey stated that they are paying more than 30% of their income on rent.

John-Mark McCafferty, CEO of Threshold said: “For those on higher incomes, paying more than 30% of income on rent may have little impact on their disposable income. However, respondents on lower incomes were more likely to be paying a higher proportion of their take-home pay on rent. When bills and other payments are factored in, some renters could face a situation where they have very little money left over for other basic living expenses.”

Covid-19 impact

43% of all respondents to the survey stated that their income had been reduced on foot of the Covid-19 pandemic. Of those, just 10% had applied for Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) or Rent Supplement, while only 21% had registered as a ‘relevant person’ with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) in order to avail of enhanced protection from eviction. When those who had not registered were asked why they had not done so, the majority stated that they were not aware of the protections or the need to register.

Recommendations

“The findings of our latest Tenant Sentiment Survey expose the lack of security of tenure, the poor standards and the high rents that we already know are making the private rented sector an undesirable place to live,” said McCafferty. “In its current form, it cannot offer a home for life. The government must recognise that renting is no longer the stepping stone to home-ownership that it once was for many; changes must be introduced to make the private rented sector a viable housing option for all.”

On the back of the survey findings, Threshold’s report sets out a number of recommendations for government, which will be discussed at today’s conference and include: an increase in affordable housing, improved security of tenure, long-term leasing as standard and establishing a national housing strategy for single people.