It’s personal – why tenants still love you
Twice a year the NRLA run a tenant survey, with polling conducted independently by the market research and data organisation Dynata. This survey ran in March and April 2023.
Over 2,000 tenants – all living in privately rented accommodation – took part. As with the survey which came before - in the summer of 2022 - a few respondents were lodgers, whilst another handful were living with friends or family. Most however rented from one of three groups:
- An independent landlord (or couple).
- Corporate or company landlords – often jargonised as the “Build to Rent” sector: these are growing in numbers, especially in conurbations and university towns.
- Tenants who have rented through a letting agency.
This paper looks in more detail at the cost-of-living and how tenants and landlords have responded to the 2022-23 price shocks in a little more detail. Here however the focus is on how the tenant views and values the relationship they have with their landlord.
The spring 2023 tenant survey
We asked tenants their views and lived experience on a range of topics important to the Private Rented Sector (PRS). In this survey, there was a heavy focus on the cost-of-living crisis:
- How difficult tenants were finding it to meet their housing and related cost commitments.
- An understanding of tenant arrears and actions being taken to manage arrears.
- Whether tenants had spoken to their landlord about the difficulties they may be having and what the outcomes of those discussions were.
Previous research (baseline) on tenant satisfaction
In the previous tenant survey attention was drawn to the satisfaction levels tenants have with their landlords. What was noticeable in that survey was the higher levels of tenant satisfaction awarded to independent landlords. In this earlier survey, all tenants were asked to rate their landlord on the basis of how likely it would be that they would recommend their landlord to another tenant.
Tenants responded on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being "Not at all likely to recommend as a landlord" to 10 being "Highly likely to recommend as a landlord". The likelihood on this scale then became a proxy for tenant satisfaction:
- Over 60% of tenants (63%) who rented from an independent landlord rated their landlord either 8, 9 or 10 out of ten on this measure.
- This compared to around 50% of tenants awarding the same set of scores to either corporate landlords (48%) or letting agents (50%).
The most recent survey results
Since the summer, times have been tough in the PRS. Inflation, interest rates and the cost-of-living crisis have affected both landlords and tenants. How has this altered the level of tenant satisfaction with their landlord?
Again, tenants were asked to rate their landlord on the basis of how likely would it be that they would recommend their landlord to another tenant.
Figure 1: Proportion of tenants giving their landlords a “satisfaction score” of 8, 9 or 10 out of ten
Compared to the baseline study:
- Tenants were noticably less likely to give agency and corporate landlords the highest recommendation.
- However, the proportion of tenants awarding their independent landlords these high scores was virtually unchanged.
Why do tenants like independent landlords so much?
(i) Landlord relationships
Firstly, tenants appreciate the efforts of the landlord and welcome the personal relationships they strike up with landlords. Tenants themselves emphasised the mutual value placed by each on the other.
When times are tough – as they certainly have been – the tenants report independent landlords to be more flexible in offering solutions without being a “soft touch”. It is important to note independent landlords were no more or no less likely to issue a notice than the other types of landlord considered in the survey.
That said, independent landlords were more likely to help tenants find an agreed path out of rent arrears before those notices were issued. It is important to say that waiving rent or other ways of letting tenants off from rent commitment is not being recommended as good practice here: Many of the tenants surveyed here report examples of independent landlords helping tenants find grants, access Universal Credit and also improving energy effiicency in the property.
It is important at the moment, to present examples of how PRS stakeholders are working cooperatively through these difficult times, especially as the media are so focused on negative stories and examples:
I've been their tenant for 17 years. They've only put the rent up three times by reasonable amounts and if anything needs fixing they do it quickly. They are decent, good people.
[The landlord is] aware of circumstances around [cost of living] and negotiates on certain issues. They try to solve at the earliest and keep the client retained.
[A] fair landlord and only…put up rent after four years…is very approachable with issues and sorts pretty promptly.
Many years of amicable relationship and very close cooperation during the financial problems of COVID-19.
(ii) Customer service
The survey focused on issues around tenant debt, the cost of living, and a range of other topics which will be covered in future blog posts.
When invited to leave comments about their landlord, tenants of independent landlords focused heavily on the service they received:
Always fixes things quickly if needed, always gives at least 48hrs notice if he needs to come round for any reason. Generally, just a really good landlord.
Great landlord that keeps the property 100% perfect. The landlord ensures everything is in good working order and orders tests to be carried out on the gas and electricity. I couldn't want for more.
Landlords are experiencing pressure from three sides: Firstly, macro-economic instability (exacerbated by tax changes). Secondly, the threat of regulatory change. Thirdly a highly negative, hostile, media environment.
All three of these are not only squeezing landlords but damaging the PRS. Despite the environment, PRS landlord and tenants continue to have – in the majority of cases – a positive relationship.
Tenants of independent landlords express levels of satisfaction considerably higher than tenants in other models of renting. This is now a consistent message – multiple, independently conducted, surveys of tenants are highlighting this fact.
It seems a shame that government policy is having the effect of squeezing tenant choice. In driving out independent landlords through policy and taxation change, policy is taking away opportunities for tenants to rent from their preferred choice of landlord.