Most Americans support policies that increase renters’ rights

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
May 25, 2022, 3:01 PM GMT+0

Findings from a recent YouGov poll reveal that most Americans support policies that would increase the rights of renters, including preventing landlords from evicting tenants in order to raise rents and requiring landlords selling a property to give current tenants the right to purchase it first. Over half of the one in four Americans who currently rent say they are worried about making their rent payments. Many say they’d like to buy a home but face financial constraints in doing so.

A YouGov poll conducted May 10 - 12, 2022 asked Americans their opinions on housing policy, as well as their current housing situation. One in four Americans (25%) say they’re currently renters (excluding those who live with family and pay them rent). Compared to mortgaged homeowners surveyed, renters are more likely to say they’ve had problems paying or been unable to pay housing costs at some point in the past year (28% of renters vs. 15% of homeowners). More than half of renters say they're currently worried about making their rent payments, compared to around one-quarter of mortgaged homeowners.

Nearly three-quarters of renters say that housing is their largest monthly expense, slightly more than the share of people who own a home with a mortgage. Many sources define affordable housing as rent or mortgage costs that account for no more than 30% of a household’s gross income. A majority of renters surveyed spend beyond these parameters, saying 30% or more of their household income goes toward paying their rent.

Renters are more likely than homeowners to say it’s difficult to find affordable housing in their local area. Compared to homeowners, renters are also more likely to say it’s a better financial decision to rent than buy in their local area – though slightly more renters still say it’s better to buy than to rent. When asked what contributes to the cost of housing in this country, people who rent are more likely than homeowners to attribute housing costs to income inequality and somewhat less likely to attribute them to inflation.

Renters are more likely than homeowners to live in an urban area and to say they have a preference for living in an urban area over a rural or suburban one. However, a preference for urban living doesn’t mean that renters necessarily prefer renting to owning. In our survey, a majority of renters say they'd be interested in buying a house if they could afford it. When asked to select from a list of reasons why renters who are interested haven’t yet bought a house, three in four cite high costs and nearly as many say they're unable to afford a down payment. About one-third say high interest rates and a limited supply of housing have prevented them from buying. Fewer say they haven’t found a house to their liking.

When asked to select from a list of potential benefits of renting over owning, most renters cite a lack of property taxes as well as not having to deal with repairs, maintenance, or yard work. Fewer cite not having to handle utilities or having increased mobility.

Most renters say they have a good relationship with their landlord, and only 4% say they have a bad relationship with their landlord. Nevertheless, most Americans, including most renters, support laws aimed at leveling the playing field between tenants and landlords. More than two-thirds of people support requiring property owners to notify tenants in writing of plans to sell their home and give them the right to purchase it first.

More than half of Americans say they’d support a “no-fault” eviction law, which would prevent landlords from evicting paying tenants in order to raise rents. In some cities, apartment tenants are forming unions in an effort to gain leverage in landlord negotiations. However, unlike labor unions, tenant unions lack the legal recognition that would provide them with bargaining power. Americans are twice as likely to support than to oppose a law requiring landlords to meet with these types of tenant unions. Renters are even more likely to support requiring this.