New Avvo study: Renters nationwide feel financial squeeze

Real estate, Money, News

A new national study released by Avvo finds that that 70 percent of American renters believe residential rental prices in their city are too high, but nevertheless feel happy and even lucky to have their rental. A full 73 percent report feeling satisfied with where they live, with 61 percent saying it’s hard to find a good place to rent in their city.

Renters blame tech industry, landlords for high costs

The survey of residential renters across the country explored attitudes about high rent, bad landlords, questionable neighbors, breaking rental rules, and impact of technology on the rental experience.

The majority of respondents believe they are currently paying too much, an attitude that came through across all regions involved in the survey. Those living in the West are slightly more likely to feel like they’re being gouged, especially when compared to people in the South and the Midwest; 76 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.

Many point fingers at the tech industry for causing rental prices to spike outside their affordability zone. Given the presence of tech hubs in the region, it’s not surprising that 38% of people living in the West— compared to 26% in the Southeast, 25% in the Northeast, and 22% in the Midwest—say the tech industry has ruined real estate prices in their city. In all, 28 percent of survey respondents tied rising rents to factors related to the tech industry. Another 24 percent look closer to home for the source of their troubles, blaming landlords themselves for high rents, and claiming landlords are raising rent too frequently.

Responsiveness, security, and other landlord expectations

While tech industry growth may make some unhappy with rental prices, many renters prefer that their landlords embrace technology to manage their rental agreement. Tech pops up in other ways as well: 65 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. And when it comes to modes of communication, 43% of renters would prefer a landlord or property manager who texts them back.

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. 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.

For additional information 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, go here.

Another sore spot was around the handling of security deposits: in exiting a rental agreement, 25 percent of renters said they’ve had a landlord or property manager unfairly keep their security deposit. Unsurprisingly, most respondents (84%) find this to be a serious landlord offense.

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: 41 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 said 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 said the same.

Renting around the country

Here are examples of some specific beliefs and experiences from four of the country’s fastest-growing rental markets—Austin, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle:

  • 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. v
  • Bostonians want to be left alone – 89% of Boston renters say disrespecting a tenant’s right to privacy is unacceptable.
  • 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.)
  • Seattleites don’t care to make friends with neighbors – While only 15% of Seattleites dislike most of their neighbors, one in three (33%) have had an argument or fight with a neighbor, and nearly half (45%) have suspected a neighbor of criminal activity at some point.

More articles on Avvo’s landlord/tenant research study:

For more information, click here to view the full study.