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Smokers face housing crisis

Three years on from the smoking ban, only 7% of landlords are happy to let people smoke in their properties.  With space for only 194,000 smokers in flatshare accommodation across the UK, 387,000 smokers are being left out in the cold.

Jonathan Moore, the director of Easyroommate.co.uk comments: “With smoking in pubs and restaurants off the cards, the last refuge for smoking – at home – is being eroded now, too.  There’s been a strong shift in attitudes towards smoking, and the tolerance levels of smokers since the smoking ban.  Smoker-friendly accommodation has been squeezed as a result.”

Smoking is most prevalent amongst the age groups who most typically flatshare. The average age of a flatsharer is 27.  Across the UK, over 10 million adults smoke (21% of the population) , but according to government figures, 30% of 20 to 24 year olds and 27% of 25 to 34 year olds are smokers.  

To compound the problem of finding suitable accommodation in the private rented sector, this is also the age group hit hardest by the current difficulty in getting a mortgage.  The CML suggests the average age of a first-time buyer (without financial assistance) is now 37.    This means younger smokers are finding it harder than ever to buy their own property where they can smoke freely.

Jonathan Moore continues: “Young First time buyers are finding it harder than ever to get on the property ladder.  That’s particularly bad news for smokers.  Thousands of smokers are unable to buy their own homes to smoke in, and are reliant on private renting and flatsharing.  They are finding it harder than ever to find suitable accommodation.”

Smokers are now such unpopular flatmates that more than a third of them (34%) admit to lying about their habit to secure a room in a flatshare.  The situation is so bad that 32% of smokers would consider giving up smoking in order to secure their dream property.

The research showed that 340,000 landlords who own flatshare accommodation (38% of the total) would kick out tenants on the spot if they lit up a cigarette indoors – whether in shared areas or not.  And landlords can be the least of smokers’ worries.  Only 19% of the flatmate population are happy to share with smokers.  While 37% of flatmates would share with a smoker if they only smoked outdoors, 44% of flatmates wouldn’t want to share accommodation with a smoker at all.

Jonathan Moore comments: “Renters looking for new properties don’t just have to consider what they want from the flat.  Potential flatmates must think about a landlord’s requirements too.  And with public opinion so anti-smoking, the temptation is there for some to try and hide the fact they smoke to secure their ideal flat. For others, it can be an added push to quit cigarettes for good. But one thing is clear. It is becoming more and more tricky for smokers to find landlords who won’t raise an eyebrow when they light up a cigarette. ”

In 2003, 36% of households were smoke free  while Easyroommate data shows just 13% of landlords allowed smoking indoors in 2007.  Three years after the smoking ban, just 7% of landlords now permitting smoking in their property.  Easyroommate forecasts that this will be as low as 3% in 2013.

Jonathan Moore concludes: “Thousands quit smoking since the ban was introduced in July 2007. In that month alone, cigarette sales fell 11% year-on-year. Many of those who have given up are live-in landlords, who no longer want to see flatmates lighting up in their company. And in the UK, the ban was brought into force to protect workers from the dangers of passive smoking.  Since its introduction, many landlords who were a little more tolerant previously have subsequently turned their flats into smoke-free zones.  All the signs show that the clamp down is only going to get worse.”

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