What are the biggest red flags for renters?

Bad smells, lack of natural light, and signs of damp have all been revealed to be deal breakers for large numbers of renters who took part in a new survey by Uswitch.

Related topics:  Landlords,  Tenants,  Rental Market
Property | Reporter
27th October 2023
To Let 690
"When initially looking for a buy-to-let to invest in, landlords should make location and safety/security the top priorities. Ensure the property is well connected, close to amenities and that both the surrounding area and the property itself feel secure"
- Kellie Steed - Uswitch

Landlords looking to invest in their first buy-to-let or increase the appeal of an existing one need to ensure that the property is as attractive as possible to renters.

Uswitch buy-to-let mortgage experts have conducted nationwide research to uncover which ‘red flags’ deter UK renters, helping landlords increase the attractiveness and subsequent value of their buy-to-let investments.

According to the data, the biggest property deterrent for respondents was signs of damp/mould, with 79% considering this to be a 'red flag'. Bad smells came in second with 67%, followed by signs of physical deterioration with 62% making up the top three.

Lack of natural light (60%), single pane windows (58%), and noise (54%) - took places 4, 5, and 6 respectively.

Completing the top ten were general uncleanliness (49%), lack of storage (47%), a prepayment energy meter fitted (41%), and finally white goods not included (38%).

Despite the fact it can be a serious health risk, 11% of homes in the private rental sector have damp issues. 79% of respondents said they would be deterred from choosing a rental property if there were signs of damp or mould.

Another big property deterrent for UK renters is windows not being double-glazed. Over half (58%) of respondents would be put off by a property lacking double-glazed windows.

A property having a prepayment (pay-as-you-go) energy meter would be a red flag for just over two in five (41%) respondents. This suggests a credit or smart meter would be more attractive to renters.

Key features on a renter’s wishlist:

Uswitch buy-to-let mortgage expert, Kellie Steed, comments: "When putting your buy-to-let on the market, ensuring you meet demands on a renters’ wishlist can heighten your confidence in finding tenants. You can also tailor your property to attract the type of tenants you want.

"Additionally, it offers flexibility in what you charge for rent, allowing you to maximise the return on your investment."

The Uswitch buy-to-let survey also revealed that for over half of respondents (66%), location is the most important factor when choosing a property. The top determining location features that landlords should bear in mind when looking for a property are:

Safety of the surrounding area (61%)

Location to local amenities (39%)

Public transport links (38%)

Safety is not only a concern for tenants regarding the surrounding area, but also the property itself. For 35% of UK renters, safety & security is the leading consideration, particularly a double lock on the front door (48%) and window locks (44%).

Renters also highly value the following property features:

EPC rating (32%)

Broadband speed (32%)

Mobile service (23%)

Additionally, 60% of UK renters also said it would be important to them that the property is managed by the landlord. While it can be easier to rely on an external party to manage a property, renters prefer to have a direct point of contact with their landlord.

At the viewing stage

Kellie suggests: “When initially looking for a buy-to-let to invest in, landlords should make location and safety/security the top priorities. Ensure the property is well connected, close to amenities and that both the surrounding area and the property itself feel secure.

“Since utility aspects like broadband and mobile speed depend on the area, landlords should also check these at the viewing stage to ensure they appeal to renters.

“In terms of EPC rating, the lowest a privately rented property is allowed to achieve is an E. While there are steps you can take to improve EPC ratings, buying a property that already has a strong rating would save time and money.


“For existing landlords to increase their buy-to-let’s appeal in regard to security, consider adding a double front door and window locks to prevent break-ins.

“Installing double-glazed windows can also increase security, as well as improve energy efficiency, decrease bills and reduce noise. Think about investing in double glazing if your property doesn’t already have it since it's valued by renters.

“To avoid the biggest rental red flag, landlords should take measures to prevent damp and mould through improved ventilation, particularly in rooms where condensation builds up like the bathroom and kitchen.

“Since prepayment meters are a deterrent, if your property has one, it’s worth looking into whether it would cost to switch to a different type to attract more renters. Whether or not you have to pay to switch (to a credit or smart meter) will depend on your energy supplier.

“As a significant number of renters consider white goods not being included as a red flag, it may be a good idea to leave white goods in your property, in full working order, to appeal to renters.

Property management

“Finally, if you have the time and resources, consider managing the property yourself, not only to meet renters' demands but also to save on agency fees.”

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