New Avvo study: San Francisco area renters are the most litigious

This week we released the results of our nationwide study on the experiences and attitudes of renters in the United States. We surveyed residential renters across the country to explore attitudes about high rent, bad landlords, questionable neighbors, breaking rental rules, and impact of technology on the rental experience. Below are just a few of the most interesting findings. You can view the full summary here.

Bad neighbors, rental behavior and landlords

It’s known that landlords and tenants alike need to stick to good behavior in order to stay on good – and legal – terms with each other. A tenant who violates their rental agreement can quickly impact the safety and quality of life for neighboring tenants. And many renters report interesting or questionable experiences with neighbors. Forty-one percent of respondents said they’d suspected a neighbor was involved in criminal activity. Renters also admit to their own shady behavior, such as hiding a pet from their property manager (17%), making an extra key to their rental in violation of their rental agreement (14%), and damaging their rental property without telling their manager (12%). When asked about subletting their rental (such as renting it out on Airbnb), 16% of renters reported they’d had an extra person living with them without telling their property manager, and nearly one in five (18%) said they’d consider subletting if they had space – though only 4% had done so without their landlord knowing.

For landlords, good behavior includes avoiding any unlawful discrimination, such as preferential treatment between women and men. Of the renters surveyed, 27% of women reported having had a landlord unfairly keep their security deposit, while 22% of men stated the same. Similarly, 26% of women and 20% of men both reported a landlord refusing to repair something. However, when asked about whether they’d had a landlord fail to provide adequate pest control, 23% of women said yes – while only 14% of men had had their landlord withhold pest control.

Renting around the country

We surveyed landlord-tenant lawyers across the country and uncovered specific beliefs and experiences in renting in these particular growing markets:

  • San Francisco area renters are the most litigious – 1 in 5 (20%) think lawsuits are the best way to solve problems with property managers, and 10% have actually sued or tried to sue to date (vs. 4% nationally.) 50% of unhappy renters have taken the common route of complaining directly to their landlord, and 14% have contacted city officials. Despite a tendency to take action when things go wrong, most San Francisco-area renters would be willing to re-think taking action if they had more control over their rent. When surveyed, 26% of renters in San Francisco said they currently live in rent-controlled units. Of those renting without rent control, half of renters (50%) said that they would consider not taking legal action if they had rent control. Forty-eight percent said that they would reconsider taking action if their rent was “fairly priced,” with 52% saying the same if they felt their landlord or property manager was fair in general.
  • High rent and it’s all the tech industry’s fault: 82% of renters in Austin, 81% in Boston and San Francisco, and 83% in Seattle believe rent is too high.
    • The majority of renters who feel this way blame the growing local tech industry – 76% in San Francisco, 57% in Austin, and 58% in Seattle – with Boston as the exception, where only 29% agree.
  • Keep Austin Weird and Airbnb alive: Two-thirds (66%) of renters in Austin wish people would stop moving to their city. Nearly one-third (29%) of Austinites would sublet their rental through Airbnb if they had space.
  • Bostonians want to be left alone: 89% of Boston renters say disrespecting a tenant’s right to privacy is unacceptable, and 89% dislike unexpected rent increases (and take them seriously).
  • Seattleites don’t care to make friends with neighbors – Known locally as the “Seattle freeze,” Seattleites have a reputation for sticking to their established friends and habits in lieu of bringing new people into their circle, and don’t care to make friends with neighbors. Fortunately, only 15% of Seattleites dislike most of their neighbors, although one in three (33%) have had an argument or fight with a neighbor. Nearly half of Seattle area renters (45%) have suspected a neighbor of criminal activity at some point.

Additional insights on renter legal attitudes and behaviors will be shared during Avvo’s free webinar with real estate marketplace Zillow: You’ve Been Served: Why Renters Sue. On Friday, August 12 at 3 p.m. EDT/12 p.m. PDT. Avvo’s Chief Legal Officer Josh King will discuss legal issues most commonly affecting landlords, and provide valuable insights on how they can approach legal issues surrounding their property and how to find and hire and attorney.