“Bills included” has become the most popular search term for people looking online for a place to rent, according to data that highlights how alarmed many tenants are about the prospect of a big rise in energy costs.
The website Rightmove said properties where monthly outgoings were included in the rent had for the first time overtaken ones that accepted pets and those with gardens as the most desirable for prospective tenants.
It is thought that most UK private rental properties do not include utilities in the rent, though student houses are among those that are often let by landlords on a bills-included basis.
Rightmove said “bills included” had, as of this month, become the most popular renter search term as people attempted to get more certainty about their outgoings at a time of rapidly rising costs.
The site allows people to prioritise their property search results by choosing specific terms. In August 2021, “bills included” did not even make the top five. That month, “pets” – where people are searching for a pet-friendly property – came top, followed by “balcony”, “furnished”, “garden” and then “garage”.
This month, “bills included” was in the top spot, with “pets” in second place and “furnished” again third.
The website said its findings underlined the effect that soaring energy bills and other living costs were having on people searching for a new place to live.
It also found many people were contacting agents about available properties across a “much bigger area” than previously to have a better chance of finding somewhere within their budget.
However, hybrid working was also a factor, as many people now have more flexibility about where they are able to live.
Last month, Rightmove said average private rents in Britain had hit record highs, jumping by more than 20% in some areas such as Manchester. It found the average advertised rent outside London was almost 12% higher than a year ago, while in the capital it was up by almost 16%.
The site said a lot of this was down to “a huge imbalance between demand and supply”.
The homelessness charity Crisis has warned that low-income renters are falling into a “housing black hole”, with an analysis it carried out in conjunction with the property website Zoopla suggesting fewer than one in eight homes listed for rent were affordable to people receiving housing benefit.
Soaring rents coupled with a freeze on housing benefit had led to a huge shortfall in affordable homes in England, Crisis and Zoopla said. The two organisations are calling on the government to increase housing benefit if it wants to prevent thousands from being pushed into homelessness.