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Nation of house-proud renters: 6.6 million people brimming with ideas to improve their home

Posted 30 Jan 2020

More than three-quarters of private renters in England (77%) – equivalent to 6.6 million adults – would like to make small improvements to their home, new research from Shelter and B&Q shows.

Given more people now rent privately, including over a million families, the YouGov study for Shelter and its partner B&Q shines a light on the important relationship between our wellbeing and the place we call home. With renters across the country wanting to make a combined total of 17.5 million home improvements, it also challenges the idea that renters are not interested in putting down roots.

A staggering 72% of private renters, which is equivalent to over 6 million people, said they would feel happier in their home if they could decorate it as they wish, highlighting the positive impact small home improvements can have on mental health. And 29% said they would be more likely to invite family and friends over if they could add personal touches to their home.

Pulling the curtain back yet further, the Shelter and B&Q research reveals the top four home improvements private renters are most keen to roll their sleeves up for:

  • Putting personal items up on the walls, e.g. pictures, photographs, and mirrors (50%)

  • Painting (51%)

  • Changing or putting up curtains or blinds (37%)

  • Tidying up the garden (25%)

However, before personalising their rented pads, both Shelter and B&Q are keen to stress that private tenants must first seek the permission of their landlord. Many landlords do allow tenants to make small changes. In fact, 41% of renters say they already know their landlord permits small improvements and more may do so if asked.

The findings support the ongoing partnership between Shelter and B&Q, who are working together because of a shared belief that everyone should feel happy and safe in their home.

Funded entirely by B&Q donations, Shelter’s DIY Skills Adviser Service provides practical help and basic DIY training to people who are struggling with bad housing or settling into a new home after being homeless.

Covering London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Merseyside, Dorset, and Bristol, Shelter’s team of trained home improvement specialists have helped over 2,500 people since the partnership launched in 2017, with tasks ranging from decorating to gardening.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: 'Every day our team of specialist DIY skills advisers see the difference that even modest home improvements can have on people’s happiness levels. So, it’s not surprising to us that so many private tenants want to make their rental feel more homely.

'It might not seem like a big deal, but something as small as a fresh lick of paint really does go a long way towards helping families who’ve experienced bad housing or homelessness to feel settled in a new place.

'With B&Q’s ongoing support, we can continue to provide hands-on help and basic DIY training to even more people – equipping them with the confidence and skills to create a home where they feel happy and safe.'

Graham Bell, chief executive of B&Q, said: 'We believe that everyone should have a home they feel good about, which is why B&Q fund Shelter’s DIY Skills Adviser Service. Painting a room or hanging a favourite photo may seem like small changes, but can be transformational in helping people feel settled in their surroundings. What’s more, empowering people with the practical skills they need to make these small changes can be life changing.'

Case Study: Matty (aged 43) from Birmingham, was helped to settle into a new home following a period of homelessness by Steve Franklin, one of Shelter’s DIY Skills Advisers.

Matty said: 'The main thing I got from working with Steve to improve my flat, was confidence. I guess it’s hard to appreciate how much your home can change how you feel, but I’d never had anywhere I could shut the world out and feel settled before, having lived in some pretty bad places.

'Steve taught me how to fit my curtain rails and blinds. He also got some colour charts and helped me to decide which shades of paint I wanted in each room. Throughout this process I had to speak up and say what I would like lots of times, and that isn’t something I’ve had the chance to do until now. When we were done decorating the place it really felt like it was my home.'

Notes to editors:

Home improvement tips, for renters wanting to add personality to their home, without risking their deposit. From Denise Milnes, a Shelter DIY Skills Adviser, in Sheffield:

1. ALWAYS Speak to your landlord first Before ‘lifting a paintbrush’ always get your landlord’s written permission ahead of making any changes to your rented home, regardless of whether the changes are permanent or temporary. Whatever you do, don’t risk losing your deposit, so it pays to check.  

2. Pull your room together with colourful curtains Brighten up any room with a new set of curtains. Use tab-topped or pencil pleat curtains where poles or tracks already exist, and where they don’t you can avoid drilling into walls by using tension rods. Curtains are a great way to add colour and texture, eliminate draughts and provide privacy. Don’t forget to save the original curtains and any hooks or rings, so you can put these back as you found them before moving out.  

3. Get a handle on it Add style to doors and cupboards by switching out old door handles or knobs for something a little different. Whether it’s hand-painted ceramic knobs, rustic handles or contemporary style levers, there are loads to choose from! Just remember to save the original knob or handle, and their fixtures, so that you can put these back as you found them at end of your tenancy.

4. Spruce up old furniture with a self-adhesive film You can pick up non-permanent, self-adhesive films in a range of funky styles these days, such as marble, chalkboard and wood effect. They are easy to apply and can be used as a convenient and affordable way to spruce up any old furniture that you own. If it’s not your own furniture always get your landlord’s permission before applying anything to their stuff. Once you have the green light, it’s as simple as peel and stick! If you’re worried, you can always test a small patch on another hidden surface first to double-check it doesn’t leave any marks when you pull it back off.  

5. Softly does it Soft furnishings like cushions, throws and rugs are a great, low-cost way to add finishing touches to a room. Give a neutral space a splash of colour with a bright throw draped over a chair or sofa. Or add texture to a bedroom with a wool rug - plus, a well-placed rug can also help to protect the floor from wear and tear.

6. Painting to perfection  Providing you’ve got your landlord’s consent first, introduce some extra colour to a small wall or area with a spot of paint. Pop into your local B&Q and one of their experts can advise on the right kind of paint for the surface you’re working on.  

If your landlord won’t let you paint, you can still inject some colour by refreshing your own furniture. Simply use paint or spray cans to give a new lease of life to coffee tables or plant stands. If you’re feeling really creative, stencilling and decoupage are fun ways to upcycle your old furniture.  

7. Art attack Breathe new life into any space by creating a montage of your photos or download free art from the internet to print. Instead of traditional picture hooks that can leave holes, easy-to-use adhesive hooks are great for damage-free picture hanging. Sticky tack can stain walls, so it’s best avoided. It’s also worth remembering framed art looks great simply leaning against a wall and couldn’t be easier to move when your mood changes.  

8. Let there be light Introduce table or standing lamps to create a calm, relaxing atmosphere. The added bonus is that you can always take these when you move. Why not experiment with different electronic, LED candles to create that warm, homely feel and think about where you’re placing mirrors to help bounce light around the room.  

9. Bring the outside indoors A welcome pot-plant or a splash of green is an incredibly simple way of bringing a room to life, adding colour and introducing more nature into your home. And if you live in a property that has its own outside space – such as a patio, balcony or garden – you can add some nice removable plants, flowers, pots or small pieces of garden furniture.  

Further notes:

  • Survey results are from a YouGov survey of 3,995 private renters in England, online, weighted according to official statistics provided by Shelter, Aug-Sept 2019.

  • The estimated number of people is calculated using the YouGov survey results in conjunction with the Census 2011, English Housing Survey 2017/18 and ONS mid-year population estimates. The base number is an estimated 8.5 million adults who rent privately. Note this is the number of people and not homes, which is a smaller figure due to some renters living together in the same home.

  • About the Shelter and B&Q partnership: B&Q and Shelter are working together because we believe everyone should feel happy and safe in the place they call home. Since launching the partnership in 2017, B&Q colleagues and customers have raised over £1.7 million for Shelter. These donations entirely fund the charity’s DIY Skills Adviser Service and help to support its other frontline services, providing free advice and support to anyone struggling with bad housing or homelessness.