Despite our national obsession with owning property, millions of us across the UK are likely to live in rented accommodation for most of our lives.
There can be many positive reasons to rent, from convenience and affordability to the relative lack of commitments or responsibility.
Unfortunately though, living in a property you don’t own also brings compromises. And surprisingly, internet access can be among them.
The challenges of getting broadband in rental homes
On paper, it seems entirely unreasonable for a landlord to decline a request for broadband installation in rental homes they let out.
But rentiers are generally risk-averse, and many will object if tenants ask for anything more than routine property maintenance.
Since getting broadband in rental homes could occasionally involve upgrading existing phone lines or installing new cabling, landlords may feel anxious about granting permission.
We’ve all heard stories of installation engineers digging up gardens and driveways to lay a cable, or drilling holes in outside walls before crudely applying the wrong colour of silicon filler.
In their haste to finish a job, engineers have been known to staple wires along stair treads and around door frames, damage alarm systems, and leave holes in walls or skirting boards.
The path of least resistance for the installer isn’t always the most professional, aesthetically pleasing or practical approach.
After all, the landlord is unlikely to be supervising the work, and some tenants may not be too concerned if the job is messy or slapdash. It’s not their property.
The good news is that even an old-fashioned copper telephone line can support broadband connections sufficient for media streaming, online gaming and video calling.
Connections only become inadequate if tenants want to upload large volumes of media files, or if several people are attempting to stream Netflix simultaneously in different rooms.
Do I even need to tell my landlord?
In many circumstances, the answer to this question is no.
Many properties are pre-wired to distribute broadband around the home. All the provider has to do is make a connection active – and this can often be done remotely.
In such instances, the landlord doesn’t need to be notified. Equally, switching from one broadband provider to another isn’t a problem if you’re using the same phone line.
However, if your existing internet speed is demonstrably letting you down, there are various ways to upgrade or improve the availability of broadband in rental homes.
Firstly, investigate which providers are in your area, and what packages are available.
Ask neighbours whether they have the services you’d like, and enquire about the installation process. Was any drilling and hammering involved, or were the connections already in place?
If neighbours can’t offer any insights, post your query in technical forums belonging to the provider/s you’re thinking about switching to.
Explain your situation, describe your property, and ask what might be involved.
Sales staff won’t always know the specifics of installing new lines or services. Plus, they’ll almost certainly underplay any prospect of mess, disruption or damage being caused.
Conversely, an engineer reading your post will understand how to extend a wire through a concrete floor, or how to reroute connections beyond the master phone socket.
If your wiring is outdated, you’ve got a reasonable case for requesting its replacement. Explain why it’s not fit for purpose, and outline the improvements which could be achieved.
Even though landlords are risk-averse, they don’t want to face the same complaints from every tenant – and affordable improvements to a property they own will benefit them, too.
Some rental homes are even advertised with high-speed broadband availability. If your landlord is a Luddite, it’s worth mentioning how desirable a good internet connection can be.
And if all else fails…
The Government intends to amend existing legislation to ensure tenants get interim rights to install broadband, if their landlord is failing to respond to requests for approval or access.
Brexit has delayed this from happening, but an updated Electronics Communications Code is expected to become law next year.
Tenants will still need to request permission in first instance, and possibly attend a tribunal if the landlord is contesting installation, for an impartial ruling to be made.
Even so, these new rights could give many renters the same access to the full range of broadband services already enjoyed by property owners.