Please Note: This Article is 4 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

BREAKING – AXA tenant Survey – According to new research by AXA*, British tenants are experiencing a surge of financial optimism, as more see buying as a realistic prospect and more are able to save. Despite the average tenant expecting to rent for a further decade, rental culture remains short-term and highly insecure. AXA calls for deeper cultural change to ensure greater peace of mind for all.

Financial confidence grows, but life remains restless and insecure for today’s tenants, says AXA, calling for change!

Here at the main points of the UK tenants’ study findings:

  • Tenants expect to rent for a further 9.5 years on average, making it a way of life for many today. Their financial optimism is rising in all regions of the country (as more expect to buy eventually, and more are saving for a deposit).
  • We provide a list of ‘stepping stone towns’ where tenants stay plan the shortest stay before settling elsewhere. Few are in favour of longer fixed leases as seen on the Continent.
  • AXA finds that short-term and insecure tenancies prevail – just over two years in one property on average, fostering a culture of deep insecurity that adversely affects both tenants and landlords.

The study found a growing financial confidence among tenants, as more see home ownership as a realistic prospect. In 2013, 67 per cent of tenants surveyed said they rent because they can’t buy, and didn’t expect that to change. This year, that figure has fallen to 44 per cent, as four in ten tenants (equal to 1.7 million) say they expect to get off the rental market within five years.

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The number of tenants saving for a deposit has doubled too: a quarter in this year’s survey, up from just thirteen per cent in 2013. This optimism is largely limited to tenants in the under 35 category, however, and the average tenant still expects to rent until the end of 2025 – that is, for a further nine-and-a-half years.

While many rent reluctantly, there is a growing number who choose not to buy. A third of tenants now say their primary reason isn’t lack of options, but the freedom and lifestyle benefits renting brings. Seventeen per cent of tenants are career builders who follow job opportunities or projects around the country. Meanwhile, 18 per cent simply prefer the low commitment of renting, both financially and geographically.

While most tenants expect to be on the rental market for a further decade, they will only stay in each rental property for an average of two years. And there is little appetite for a more European culture of five and ten year leases: 61 per cent prefer the status quo of six months to a year, with just 18 per cent saying they would benefit.

One reason identified by the study was that in Britain tenants are a highly mobile population. Within the next five years, two thirds of tenants – or 2.7 million people nationwide – plan to migrate to another part of the UK, and one in ten plan emigration. London, Bristol and Edinburgh top the list of ‘stepping stone towns’, where tenants tend to stay the shortest time.

Shifting sands – the downside of British rental culture

In a country that historically equates property ownership with status or ‘success’, many feel there is a lingering stigma attached to being a tenant. 32 per cent said they feel stigmatised for not being a property owner

Another downside of Britain’s short-term rental culture is a sense of insecurity all round – for both tenants and their landlords. Sixty four per cent of tenants say they worry about being forced out of their property at short notice. Older tenants and those with children worry most: “I just wonder what will happen if my landlord sells my house and I have to move, which is not easy to do at 72 years old. I’ve built a social life around me in my village and clubs that I go to.”

Moving on so often, British tenants also struggle to feel a sense of home or control over their personal space. A third of tenants surveyed said they have to shop around for new tenancies, not because of price, but because it is the only way they can improve their living space, citing restrictions on hanging pictures, having pets and decorating.

In a separate AXA survey, landlords named high turnover of tenants as the thing that most keeps them awake at night. With such tenuous relationships, only a minority say they know their tenants personally, and most (68 per cent) see their tenants once a year or less.

“Private landlords are filling the gap left by the decline in social rentals and home ownership, and they are becoming the second biggest source of housing for the British population,” says Darrell Sansom, Managing Director at AXA Business Insurance. “But rental culture is not as well embedded in British society as in other European countries.”

“Short-term tenancies prevail here, and while bringing benefits to some, this means that both landlords and tenants can feel as if the ground is constantly shifting under their feet. How can tenants create a sense of home in this situation? And for landlords, a revolving door of strangers means income insecurity, periods of vacancy (with much increased risk of damage and crime), and more wear and tear.”

“With such a mobile tenant population, landlords need to work that bit harder to encourage longer stays. Few tenants are interested in being ‘locked in’ to a long lease, but little compromises on things like pets, freebies like broadband or cleaning services, offering to redecorate – can build precious loyalty. As an insurer, we also know that when landlords and tenants get to know each other and talk regularly, they have more peace of mind and greater financial security in the long run.”

*AXA surveys British tenants annually, and conducts a quarterly survey of landlords. The latest survey of tenants had a sample size of 1,000 and took place in July 2016. Tenants surveyed are only those who rent from a private landlord in England, Scotland and Wales.

STEPPING STONE TOWNS

Where most tenants plan to leave (% who will still be there in five years).

1. London (28 per cent)

2. Bristol (30 per cent)

3. Edinburgh (34 per cent)

4. Brighton (36 per cent)

5. Oxford (38 per cent)

LONG-STAY TOWNS

Where most tenants plan to stay (% who will still be there in five years).

1.  Norwich (63 per cent)

2.  Wolverhampton (61 per cent)

3.  Chelmsford (57 per cent)

4.  York (56 per cent)

5.  Southampton (56 per cent)

About AXA

The AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with 166,000 employees serving 103 million clients in 64 countries. In 2015, IFRS revenues amounted to Euro 99.0 billion and IFRS underlying earnings to Euro 5.6 billion. AXA had Euro 1,363 billion assets under management as of December 31, 2015. In 2015 Interbrand ranked AXA the 1st insurance brand worldwide for the 7th consecutive year.

Please Note: This Article is 4 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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