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Unwanted moves cost renters more than half a billion pounds a year

Posted 18 Apr 2024

Unwanted moves cost renters more than half a billion pounds a year

Shelter warns Renters (Reform) Bill is on life-support while the cost of insecurity bites hard

New research from Shelter shows unwanted private rental moves in England are costing an eye-watering £550 million per year – with renters shelling out on average £669 in unrecoverable costs for every forced move.

Shelter’s analysis of YouGov figures reveal there were an estimated 830,000 unwanted moves in the last 12 months. This shocking statistic is no surprise as 40% of all renters surveyed say their last home move was forced and not made through choice.

Exposing what is causing so many unwanted moves, Shelter’s comprehensive analysis shows 245,000 renters had to move in the past year because their fixed term tenancy came to an end and a further 61,000 were priced out by a rent increase. Nearly 190,000 were served with a legal eviction notice, while 135,000 were informally asked to leave by their landlord.

Shelter’s new findings come as the charity issues a stark warning about the Renters (Reform) Bill, which it says is on the verge of being watered down into insignificance. The Bill promised to making renting more secure by scrapping no fault evictions and fixed term tenancies, but last month, the government signalled it will accept amendments from a minority of backbench MPs to delay the ban on Section 21 and reintroduce a form of fixed-term tenancies.

The charity says renters will continue to pay a heavy price while the insecurity hardwired into the renting system goes unchallenged. The most common unrecoverable costs from forced moves include:

Paying rent on two properties at once (on average this costs £800)

Paying bills at two properties (on average £245)

Loss of earnings to view properties (on average £200)

Loss of earnings while moving house (on average £200)

Removal van hire (on average £200)

Cleaning costs (on average £100)

Replacing furniture (on average £400)

One-off fees including Wi-Fi installation (on average £50)

In addition to all the unrecoverable costs, tenants must also contend with other significant upfront costs including rent paid in advance and tenancy deposits. When these are factored in, the average upfront cost of each unwanted move was calculated to soar to - £1,245 – or more than £1 billion in total.

With the Renters (Reform) Bill due back in Parliament for its third reading imminently, Shelter is urging the government to use this opportunity to bolster the Bill, and resist the amendments put forward by a small minority of its own MPs which threaten to erode the Bill’s effectiveness.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Tenants are coughing up millions in unwanted and unwarranted moves, while the government runs scared of a minority of its own MPs. Instead of striking dodgy deals with backbenchers to strangle the Renters Reform Bill, Ministers should defend renters’ best hope of a stable home.

“With protections from eviction so weak and rents so high, we constantly hear from people forced out of their homes and communities at huge personal cost. It’s impossible for renters to put down roots knowing a no-fault eviction could plunge them back into chaos at any moment.

“With the Bill’s third reading imminent, it’s now or never for the government to make good on its promise to deliver a watertight Bill. It must resist spurious attempts to sneak fixed-term tenancies back in, and to indefinitely delay the ban on no-fault evictions. England’s 11 million tenants will remember all too well who fought for them when they finally head to the ballot box.”

CASE STUDY: Natalie, 47, from Brighton, has moved 12 times in the past 21 years and has been hit with two no fault evictions in the past 18 months alone. Natalie’s last rental was noisy, draughty, and freezing cold from a lack of insulation. Despite this, in May 2023, the landlord tried to raise Natalie’s rent from £795 to £950 a month. When she complained, she was slapped with a no-fault eviction a few days later.

Natalie says that being forced out of her home twice in quick succession has cost her hundreds of pounds in moving costs and has profoundly impacted her physical and mental health. She described her experience as ‘traumatising’.

Natalie said: “Though I’ve been in my new home for seven months now, I still can’t quite relax. I haven’t even unpacked properly. I’m worried that as soon as I do, I’m going to have to move again. I feel traumatised by what’s happened. It’s like I’m always in fight or flight.

“I’ve downsized to a studio. Most of my stuff is stored in a garage nearby that I’m renting for £75 and I had to shell out £750 on removal van hire alone. It took me 18 months just to pay back all the debts accrued from the last move, and then it happened all over again.

“There is nothing worse than being forced to move home. Without a stable foundation, how can you lead a fruitful life?”


Notes to editors:

Notes to editors:

Figures are from a YouGov survey for Shelter of 2,002 private renting adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29th February - 19th March 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of private renters in England aged 18+, based on English Housing Survey data. Population calculations have been done independently by Shelter using Census data.

The cost of moving:

The mean cost of moving per renter is £669. This figure includes renters who didn’t incur costs. This figure excludes recoverable costs such as rent in advance and deposits.

YouGov polling shows that the average private renter moves between private rentals 1.34 times over 5 years. Using census data on the number of private renting adults, this equates to around 2.06m moves a year.

Shelter analysis of YouGov polling shows that 40% of moves are unwanted (see below for Shelter’s definition of unwanted moves).

This means that approximately 830,000 moves every year are unwanted.

To work out the estimated annual cost of unwanted moves, we multiplied the number of unwanted moves a year by the average cost of moving (£669 x 830,000).

This equates to an annual cost of £555m per year.

The mean upfront cost of moving per renter, including rent in advance and deposits, is £1,245. This equates to an annual cost of £1.03 billion (£1,245 x 830,000).

Table of costs:

Proportion of renters who incurred this cost Median cost
Unrecoverable costs
Removal van hire 43% £200
Cost of boxes/ packing material 37% £50
Paying double rent (i.e. paying rent on two properties) 26% £800
Paying double bills (i.e. paying for bills in two properties), including council tax 27% £245
The cost of letting a short-term property (e.g. through Airbnb) 5% £350
Lost wages due to time taken off on the day of the move 10% £200
Lost wages due to time taken off to view properties 8% £200
One off fees (e.g. Wi-Fi or smart meter installation) 32% £50
Letting agency fees (i.e. admin fees) 28% £150
Replacing furniture I had to leave behind / buying furniture suitable for the new space (including beds and sofas) 33% £400
Making new home suitable for accessibility needs 5% £200
White goods’ (e.g. kitchen appliances) 24% £300
Cleaning costs 29% £100
Interim storage 8% £175
New parking permits or bike storage 6% £70
Any other non-refundable fee / cost incurred due to having to move 14% £100
Recoverable costs
Tenancy / damage deposit 35% £600

Note: median costs of renters who experienced the cost.

Unwanted moves:

Shelter defines unwanted or forced moves as those that meet the following criteria:

  • Unwanted moves:

    Main reason for last move between private rented properties Proportion of moves Estimated number of unwanted moves in one year
    My fixed term tenancy ended 12% 245,000
    The landlord/ letting agent asked me informally to leave (i.e. did not serve a legal notice) 7% 135,000
    The landlord/ letting agent served me a legal notice 9% 189,000
    I was struggling to afford rent payments 1% 27,000
    Previous accommodation was in poor condition 7% 137,000
    Landlord/ letting agent increased the rent 3% 61,000
    My housing benefit was reduced/ frozen and I couldn't keep up with the rent 0.2% 4,000
    Behaviour/ service received from landlord/ agent 1% 23,000
    The landlord / letting agent evicting me illegally (i.e. changing the locks or forcibly removing me from the property) 0.4% 9,000

    Note: percentages and population estimates have been rounded.