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A third of renters worried to ask landlords about making home improvements

30th March 2021

  • 28% of renters say they feel they have missed out on making home improvements because they are renters - though 14% have prioritised making sustainable changes
  • 33% of renters are worries about asking their landlord to improve the property over fears of eviction, and 10% fear losing their security deposit
  • 41% of renters surveyed say their energy bills have increased over a year of lockdown, while 31% have become more aware of their energy use
  • 72% of landlords would agree to a tenant getting a smart meter installed

More than a quarter of renters (28%) are feeling 'stir crazy' after a year confined to the same four walls during lockdown, and the same amount (28%) say they have missed out on making home improvements in lockdown because they are a renter.

What's more, 41% of renters surveyed say their energy bills have increased, while 31% have become more aware of their energy use.

New polling from Smart Energy GB shows that many renters are taking matters into their own hands. Nearly four in ten (38%) of private renters say they have bought new furniture, and 30% have hung new decorations in the last year.

Renters are also looking to make their homes more sustainable: 14% of renters have improved the energy efficiency of their home, with the most popular choice being making sure to turn off the lights when they leave a room (56%).

Among the home improvements they would like to undertake, 40% of renters would like to paint the walls and 29% would like to put down new flooring and carpets. In addition, many tenants could be experiencing the multiple benefits of a smart meter, but 44% don't realise that they are entitled to request one from their energy supplier if they are the billpayer. And what's more, over four in ten renters (44%) mistakenly believe that the responsibility to book an installation lies with the landlord.

Christopher, a renter from Bristol, said: "During the first lockdown of 2020, my family and I were looking into ways of getting our household bills down so we decided to get a smart meter installed. With the smart meter, we no longer have to worry about estimated bills and can track our energy usage using the in-home display.

"The kids love it and beyond a courtesy call to our landlord, it was as simple as booking in a date with our supplier. I'd definitely recommend it to other renters."

Renting rights

While 72% of landlords surveyed said they would agree to get a smart meter installed, Smart Energy GB has discovered that the actions of letting agents may be contributing to confusion.

Just under half (49%) of letting agents said that they had added a clause in the tenancy agreement preventing a tenant from having a smart meter installed without the consent of the landlord, despite installation being the billpayer's right.

Now more than ever, renters are looking for clarity around their rights in the home. More than a third (36%) say they are not sure what their rights are, and the same number say they don't know where to turn for advice.

Almost one in five (19%) think their landlord would say no if they asked permission to make changes to their home, and 11% are worried they will lose their security deposit if they do so without permission and a shocking 33% fear eviction.

Smart meters: a renter's helping hand

Smart meters make life easier instantly, through automatic billing and greater visibility of energy use. This in turn can help save a bit of money and eases the headache of splitting bills in a house-share. With a smart meter in prepay mode, you can also top up in a variety of ways from the comfort of your own home and can clearly see when you are close to using your emergency credit.

While many renters in Great Britain continue to work from home, 22% are concerned that an installation might be inconvenient or inflexible - but in reality, a smart meter installation takes as little as two hours and can be scheduled at a time to suit you. Your landlord does not need to be present for installation, but you should let them know you are having a smart meter installed.

Kate Faulkner, founder of Propertychecklists.co.uk, said: "With people spending so much more time at home, many are keen to improve their living space, with sustainability being a key consideration. It is natural to want to make your home as comfortable as possible, and the good news is that there are some improvements private renters can make to their homes which don't require permission from the landlord, or which the landlord is happy for you to go ahead with.

"Things like tidying the garden or outdoor space and of course adding your own furniture can make it feel more like home - all of which can be easily removed prior to leaving. Requesting a smart meter from your energy supplier is another way to take control of your home environment, as they give you visibility over your energy use and spend. Many tenants (and landlords) don't realise if you pay the energy bills it is your right to request a smart meter installation. In most cases, your landlord doesn't even need to be present for the installation, but it's wise to let them or their letting agent know, in writing, you have requested one."

Robert Cheesewright, Director at Smart Energy GB, said: "After the year we've had, it's no surprise that renters are doing all they can to improve their home improvements, and it's great to see that energy efficiency and sustainability are a big part of that.

"Smart meters help households to keep an eye on home energy use and are an essential part of Britain's commitment to reaching net zero. If you're renting and you or your housemates pay the energy bill, it is your right to request one from your energy supplier."

This news comes at a welcome time for renters as the pandemic has taken a toll on many people's finances, and with 60% of renters keen to make their homes as energy efficient as possible to help reduce their energy bills and for the sake of the environment.

Dan Wilson Craw, Deputy Director, Generation Rent, said: "Private renters pay the most for their housing costs, so any ways to keep other costs down are welcome. Energy use is one area where renters can make savings. But more than a quarter of renters (27%) have lived in their home for less than a year, so it is harder to know how much gas and electricity they use to make informed decisions about switching supplier or asking for energy efficiency improvements.

"Smart meters are one easy way that renters can take a bit of control over their bills, while also leaving a sustainable legacy for the next tenants. We would encourage all private tenants to consider getting one, contacting their energy supplier for more information."

Smart meters are an essential part of Britain's commitment to reaching net zero. As soon as a smart meter is installed, the benefits to the billpayer are immediate, and the environmental benefits even continue for the next tenant who moves into the property.

Do your bit and contact your energy supplier to request a smart meter at no additional cost.

Visit smartenergygb.org to find out more.

-ENDS-

Notes to editors

   Latest Complete Figures on GB renters Across a Single Year (2019)
 Nation  Total Number of Households % of Private Rented Households Number of Private Rented Households   Average Household Size  Est. Number of People in Private Rented Households
 England  23,800,000 (English Housing Survey 2019-2020)  19% (English Housing Survey 2019-2020)  4,400,000 (English Housing Survey 2019-2020) 2.4 (Households by household size, regions of England and UK constituent countries - 2019) 10,560,000 
 Scotland  2,500,000 (Scottish Household Survey 2019)  14% (Scottish Household Survey 2019)  340,000 (Scottish Household Survey 2019)  2.15 (Scottish Government Statistics 2019)  731,000
 Wales  1,430,000 (Dwelling Stock Estimates for Wales, 31 March 2019)  15% (Dwelling Stock Estimates for Wales, 31 March 2019)  207,700 (Dwelling Stock Estimates for Wales, 31 March 2019)  2.26 (Household estimates: mid-2019)  469,402
 GB total      4,947,700    11,760,402

 

Smart Energy GB landlords and letting agents research

  • About half (49%) of letting agents in this sample say their agency has added a change of meter clause to tenancy agreements
  • 72% of landlords would agree to get a smart meter installed
  • One quarter 25% of landlords surveyed have already installed a smart meter in at least one of their properties
  • 40% of landlords believe that landlords should take on the responsibility of installing a smart meter, while 39% believe it lies with the tenant. Tenants interested in installing a smart meter should speak with their supplier, and let their landlord know.

About smart meters and the rollout

Britain is committed to a cleaner future - one with zero carbon, zero emissions and reduced pollution.

To make this happen, our nation requires a major upgrade to its energy infrastructure, specifically, it requires the creation of a smart energy system. Smart meters, which replace traditional, analogue meters, are the foundation of a more reliable, clean and affordable energy infrastructure, allowing Great Britain to better manage energy use, transition to mass uptake of electric vehicles and to build a greener economy.

There are already over 23 million smart meters installed in homes and microbusinesses across Great Britain. Every household in England, Scotland and Wales can now see their energy use in near-real time, receive accurate bills and do their bit for the planet, by requesting a smart meter, at no extra cost, from their energy supplier.

About Smart Energy GB

Smart Energy GB is the campaign for a smarter Britain. It's our task to help everyone in Great Britain understand smart meters, the national rollout and how to use their new meters to be cleaner and greener with their energy use. Our national campaign is reaching households and microbusinesses in England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit our website smartenergyGB.org

Smart Energy GB media contacts

For more information including interview requests, case studies of smart meter users, infographics, photography and video content please contact the Smart Energy GB media team:

Smart Energy GB:

Helen Kelly: [email protected]; 0131 322 6204 / 07921 458 041

Georgia McGrath: [email protected]; t: 0203 019 1023 m: 07715 636 862