Renters share concern for safety but don’t reach out to neighbors

PEMCO’s “Great Neighbor Index” shows homeowners more likely than renters to enjoy who’s next door



​​​​SEATTLE – The latest poll from PEMCO Insurance suggests that renting may come with more woes than leases and landlords. A recent survey of Washington and Oregon residents reveals that renters, when compared to homeowners, share serious concerns about the safety of where they live, but most fail to take one of the most logical steps to increase their security – getting to know who lives next door.

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, approximately 37 percent of Northwest residents rent their home and of those, about one-quarter (23 percent) say they are extremely or very concerned about safety in their neighborhood.

But the PEMCO Poll shows that despite renters' concern, they are less likely than homeowners to know their neighbors, which might ensure a greater sense of security. Nearly three-quarters of renters (72 percent) know fewer than half of their neighbors, and 50 percent of renters know less than one-quarter of the people who live nearby.

"Our poll found that renters – the people who seem to have the most to gain from knowing their neighbors – are the least likely to make connections that might make them feel safer at home," said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. "Studies show that building community, through organized activities or even informal gatherings, leads to a stronger sense of security."

Across the Northwest, those who own their home are significantly less worried about safety in their neighborhood – more than half (59 percent) are "not very" or "not at all" concerned about safety where they live. In fact, PEMCO's trending data reveals that homeowners in Washington have become less concerned over time, from 42 percent in 2008 to 50 percent in 2014 who say they aren't very concerned about safety where they live.

In Oregon, just 11 percent of homeowners are very concerned about neighborhood safety while nearly two times as many renters (20 percent) express the same or even greater concern.

One possible conclusion of PEMCO's latest poll is that homeowners feel more secure because they're acquainted with who lives next door. The poll revealed that homeowners are twice as likely as renters to be acquainted with a majority of their neighbors – 26 percent of homeowners know at least three-quarters of their neighbors while just 13 percent of renters say the same. About half of homeowners (46 percent) know at least half of their neighbors, according to the poll. 

The poll also suggests that homeowners are more likely to trust their neighbors. More than half of those who own their home (54 percent) also let their neighbors know when they'll be out of town, while just 29 percent of renters do the same.

Residents over age 55 are among those who are more inclined to share vacation dates with neighbors. Sixty percent of all residents over age 55 – whether renters or owners – inform their neighbors of vacation plans, while just 38 percent of their younger counterparts do the same.

That may be because older residents have more established households. According to the poll, those over 55 have resided at their current address an average of 16 years, and 45 percent of them know a majority of their neighbors. By contrast, residents under 35 have lived in their current home an average of 5 years and just 30 percent say they know a majority of their neighbors. What's more, one-quarter of today's young people have been at their address for less than a year.

"We'll track these trends over time. It certainly makes sense for older residents to be more settled in their homes, but we're curious to see if today's younger population continues to move around as they age," Osterberg noted.

New data from PEMCO also suggests that there are benefits beyond security for those who are more committed to their home or neighborhood. In PEMCO's first "Great Neighbor Index" residents rated the qualities of great neighbors, along with the attributes of a bad neighbor.

The index also measures the percentage of their own neighbors that residents would classify as bad or great. A higher score on the index indicates the presence of more great neighbors than bad ones.

According to the index, residents might have better luck borrowing a cup of sugar from neighbors in Oregon. Oregonians earned a higher Great Neighbor Index score, earning 37 points out of 100 on the index compared to 30 points for their Washingtonian counterparts.

In both states, those who own their home are significantly more likely than those who rent to enjoy their neighbors. Four out of five homeowners in Oregon (80 percent) say they have more "great" neighbors than bad ones, and three-quarters (74 percent) of Washington homeowners have a majority of great neighbors.

Across the board, residents agree great neighbors are those who are helpful and trustworthy, but keep a respectful distance.

In Washington and Oregon, about half of residents said that being helpful when asked, being trustworthy with high integrity, and being respectful and reasonable are the most important traits of a great neighbor.

The poll shows that Northwest residents might draw the line at becoming chummy with their neighbors, though – just 4 percent of respondents in either state thought a good neighbor should show interest by asking a lot of personal questions or frequently inviting you over.

Similarly, Washington and Oregon residents agree: bad neighbors are those who often host loud parties with multiple guests, those who are not trustworthy, and those who do not respect the rights of others. Nearly half of respondents also cited noisy or wandering pets and ill-maintained property as potential rifts in neighborly camaraderie.

For a complete summary of PEMCO's poll results, visit

The public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in November 2014.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 600 in Oregon, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range.​

About PEMCO Insurance

PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. For more information, visit J.D. Power has ranked PEMCO "Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Auto Insurers in the Northwest Region, Two Years in a Row." For J.D. Power award information, visit​​