According to Smart Energy GB 28% of tenants who took part in their survey say they have missed out on making home improvements in lockdown because they rent.
However, 38% of private renters said they have bought new furniture, and 30% have hung new decorations in the last year.
Among the home improvements they would like to undertake, 40% of renters want to paint the walls and 29% would like to put down new flooring and carpets.
Now more than ever, renters are looking for clarity around their rights in the home. 36% say they are not sure what their rights are, and the same number say they don’t know where to turn for advice.
19% think their landlord would say no if they asked for permission to make changes to their home, and 11% are worried they will lose their security deposit if they do so without permission and 33% fear eviction.
The results of the survey also show 41% of renters have seen energy bills increases during lockdown, while 31% became more aware of their energy use.
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%).
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. 44% also 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.”
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. 49% of letting agents said that they had added a change of meter clause to their tenancy agreement, despite installation being the billpayer’s right.
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 environments, 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.”
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.”