Happy, and increasingly younger, tenants are paying less and staying longer in their homes. Those are today’s findings from the English Housing Survey (EHS), conducted by the independent Office of National Statistics (ONS), which will come as music to landlords ears.
In 2015-16, the private rented sector accounted for 4.5 million or 20% of households. Of these a large portion of are aged between 25-34 years old. In 2005-06, 24% of those aged 25-34 lived in the private rented sector. By 2015- 16 this had increased to 46%. Over the same period, the proportion of 25-34 year olds buying with a mortgage decreased from 53% to 35%.
Despite on-going calls for new legislation imposing mandatory 3-5 year tenancies, the survey also finds the current average time a tenant lives in their home to be over 4 years. There is a saying that comes to mind: If it ain’t broke…
The ONS also find that, by every metric they measure it, that rents as a proportion of household income has actually gone down over the last year. On average households spent 35% of their total income on rent. This backs up evidence from the (also independent) National Audit Office, which found that, with the exception of London, rents rose slower than the rise in median incomes.
Energy efficiency in the PRS is also continuing to improve. Properties in the F&G efficiency bands are down from 10.6% in 2013-14, to just 6.3% in 2015-16. From April 2018 landlords must ensure that properties they rent in England and Wales reach at least an EPC rating of E before granting a tenancy to new or existing tenants.
It is therefore not surprising that satisfaction amongst renters is found to be high (7.5), higher than those that rent socially. The EHS also found in previous surveys that satisfaction with their landlords was in the high 70% bracket.
These official figures are welcome news but they don’t mean more can’t be done. Of course there are issues within the PRS which demand improvement. Our message however has not changed. In a well intentioned rush to do something, law makers should not forget that the market is generally working well for the vast majority of tenants.
The vast majority of the sector is professional and business-like. For too long it has been tarnished by criminals who use it to make a quick buck at the expense of vulnerable tenants, knowing local councils are under-resourced and ill-equipped to prosecute them.
The best way to speed up improvements in the sector will not be through more legislation and the demonisation of landlords, but through funding proper enforcement of existing laws and recognition in the tax system of the vital role landlords play.
It is often said the facts speak for themselves. However, it’s clear that in this case they may need a little help. We will keep cutting through the urban myths surrounding the PRS leaving tenants to be young, to be foolish but (crucially) be happy.