Survey of residential renters across the country explores attitudes about high rent, bad landlords, questionable neighbors, breaking rental rules, and impact of technology on the rental experience
Seattle, Wash — Online legal services provider Avvo today released the results of a study on the experiences and attitudes of renters in the United States, finding that 70% of renters believe residential rental prices in their city are too high. Despite high rental prices, most American renters feel happy and even lucky to have their rental. Seventy-three percent report feeling satisfied with where they live, even though 61 percent said it’s hard to find a good place to rent in their city.
Renters wary of high rental prices, blame tech industry and landlords
The majority of American renters think their local rents are too high. People living in the West are slightly more likely to feel this way, especially when compared to people in the South and the Midwest. Seventy-six percent of people in the West don’t like how high rent is where they live, compared to 71% of Northeasterners, 66% of Southerners, and 63% of Midwesterners who said the same.
Some renters believe their landlord is to blame for high rents, and others blame the tech industry for causing rental prices to spike. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed believe their landlord is at fault for high rents, claiming that their landlord raises the rent too frequently. A slightly larger percentage of renters surveyed (28%) believe these rising rents are the fault of the tech industry. Given the presence of tech hubs in the region, it’s not surprising that 38% of people living in the West region of the United States – compared to 26% of people in the Southeast, 25% of people in the Northeast, and 22% of people in the Midwest – say the tech industry has ruined real estate prices in their city.
While the accelerated growth of the tech industry may make some unhappy with rental prices in key tech markets, many renters prefer that their landlords embrace technology to manage their rental agreement. Sixty-five percent of renters say they like the idea of paying their rent online, and 41% say they’d like to be able to sign their lease online. When it comes to modes of communication, 43% of renters would prefer a landlord or property manager that texts with them.
Responsiveness, security, and other expectations for landlords
Renters also expect a landlord to be responsive, to maintain the property well, to provide adequate security, and to be fair with security deposits. Twenty-three percent of renters surveyed said their landlord or property manager has refused to repair something, and 33% of renters said their current property manager is too slow to make repairs (86% believing that this is a serious offense.) Twenty-eight percent of renters said their current landlord doesn’t provide adequate security, while 37% said they’d pay more for a rental with a security system installed. Nineteen percent of renters said they’ve had a landlord or property manager who did not provide adequate pest control. And in exiting a rental agreement, 25% of renters said they’ve had a landlord or property manager unfairly keep their security deposit, which 84% of renters believe to be a serious offense by a landlord.
Bad neighbors, rental behavior and landlords
Landlords and tenants alike need to stick to good behavior in order to stay on good – and legal – terms with each other. A tenant who violates their rental agreement can quickly impact the safety and quality of life for neighboring tenants. And many renters report interesting or questionable experiences with neighbors. Forty-one percent of respondents said they’d suspected a neighbor was involved in criminal activity. Renters also admit to their own shady behavior, such as hiding a pet from their property manager (17%), making an extra key to their rental in violation of their rental agreement (14%), and damaging their rental property without telling their manager (12%.) When asked about subletting their rental (such as renting it out on Airbnb), 16% of renters reported they’d had an extra person living with them without telling their property manager, and nearly one in five (18%) said they’d consider subletting if they had space – though only 4% had done so without their landlord knowing.
For landlords, good behavior includes avoiding any unlawful discrimination, such as preferential treatment between women and men. Of the renters surveyed, 27% of women reported having had a landlord unfairly keep their security deposit, while 22% of men stated the same. Similarly, 26% of women and 20% of men both reported a landlord refusing to repair something. However, when asked about whether they’d had a landlord fail to provide adequate pest control, 23% of women said yes – while only 14% of men had had their landlord withhold pest control.
Renting around the country
In surveying renters and landlord-tenant lawyers around the country, a sample of growing rental markets – Austin, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle – uncovered specific beliefs and experiences in renting around the country:
- High rent and it’s all the tech industry’s fault: 82% of renters in Austin, 81% in Boston and San Francisco, and 83% in Seattle believe rent is too high.
- The majority of renters who feel this way blame the growing local tech industry – 76% in San Francisco, 57% in Austin, and 58% in Seattle – with Boston as the exception, where only 29% agree.
- Keep Austin Weird and Airbnb alive: Two-thirds (66%) of renters in Austin wish people would stop moving to their city. Nearly one-third (29%) of Austinites would sublet their rental through Airbnb if they had space.
- Bostonians want to be left alone: 89% of Boston renters say disrespecting a tenant’s right to privacy is unacceptable, and 89% dislike unexpected rent increases (and take them seriously.)
- San Francisco area renters are the most litigious – 1 in 5 (20%) think lawsuits are the best way to solve problems with property managers, and 10% have actually sued or tried to sue to date (vs. 4% nationally.) 50% of unhappy renters have taken the common route of complaining directly to their landlord, and 14% have contacted city officials.
- Seattleites don’t care to make friends with neighbors – Known locally as the “Seattle freeze,” Seattleites have a reputation for sticking to their established friends and habits in lieu of bringing new people into their circle, and don’t care to make friends with neighbors. Fortunately, only 15% of Seattleites dislike most of their neighbors, although one in three (33%) have had an argument or fight with a neighbor. Nearly half of Seattle area renters (45%) have suspected a neighbor of criminal activity at some point.
Additional insights for landlords on renter legal attitudes and behaviors will be shared during Avvo’s free webinar with real estate marketplace Zillow: You’ve Been Served: Why Renters Sue. On Friday, August 12 at 3 p.m. EDT/12 p.m. PDT, Avvo Chief Legal Officer Josh King will share further results from this survey, discuss legal issues most commonly affecting landlords, and provide valuable insights on how to approach legal issues surrounding your property.
For additional resources about residential or commercial lease agreements, tenant rights, or to find a lawyer who specializes in landlord-tenant or real estate law in your area, visit www.avvo.com.
About this study
Avvo conducts periodic studies of topics at the intersection of lifestyle and the law to better understand the issues facing individuals engaging with attorneys and the legal system. Given that nearly every working adult pays rent and/or taxes on property, and that real estate law represents one of the largest and most routine needs for legal help in the United States, understanding the tensions in the current rental/real estate market between is beneficial to the landlords, renters, property owners and real estate industry professionals and attorneys whom Avvo serves.
“Avvo is committed to understanding American social and cultural experiences so that we can better understand the people we seek to help,” said Nika Kabiri, Director of Strategic Insights at Avvo. “Millions of consumers seek legal help on Avvo every day and we want to interact with them in meaningful ways. We conduct several consumer studies every year to learn more about what matters to them.”
Avvo offers consumers legal help on-demand with fixed-fee, limited scope legal services from a local, experienced attorney of their choice, such as an advice session with an attorney specializing in landlord-tenant or real estate law, legal review of an eviction notice, or legal counsel in creating a residential lease agreement. Avvo lawyers additionally answer questions about residential or commercial property, lease agreements, landlord-tenant and real estate law in the company’s Q&A forum for free every day, and are featured in the Avvo directory, which includes consumer reviews and detailed profiles for 97% of licensed attorneys in the United States.
These are findings from a Research Now poll conducted in June 2016. For the survey, a sample of over 1,000 U.S. renters age 18 and over was interviewed online, with boosts to reach 500 respondents in Seattle, 501 in San Francisco, 504 in Boston, and 389 in Austin. The precision of Research Now is measured using a nonprobability sampling. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for all respondents.
About Avvo, Inc.
Avvo helps people find and connect with the right lawyer through industry leading content, tools and services. Founded in 2006 in Seattle, Avvo provides transparent information about attorneys, with Avvo-rated profiles for 97% of practicing lawyers in the United States. A free Q&A forum with more than 8 million questions and answers and on-demand legal services that provide professional counsel for a fixed cost, make legal faster and easier. For more information on how Avvo helps people through legal issues from research to resolution, visit www.avvo.com.
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