What this year’s English Housing Survey reveals

Every year, the government publishes its English Housing Survey, which reports on people’s housing circumstances and the condition and energy efficiency of properties across England.

It’s useful for landlords as it shows some of the trends within the Private Rented Sector, including how the profile of tenants is changing. This can help you make sure you continue to meet tenant demand in the best way.

This year’s report looks at the figures for 2016-17.


How types of tenure are changing

Owner occupier rates have stayed level for the last four years, at 63% of households. What has changed over that time is the proportion of households who own their home outright versus those who have mortgages. In 2013-14, 31% of households had mortgages but by 2016-17 that had dropped to 28%. The increase in outright ownership can be explained at least partly by post-war ‘baby boomers’ now being retired and having paid off their mortgage.  

Another big change over the last decade has been the number of 35 to 44-year olds that are owner occupiers. In 2006-7, it was 72% of households, but that’s dropped to 52%.

It appears that the vast majority of this group have moved to the Private Rented Sector, which has doubled in size over the last 15 years. If we include the social sector, more than a third of households in England now rent rather than own their homes.


Summary of households for England as a whole in 2016-17

Owner occupiers 63%
Private Rented Sector 20%
Social rented sector 17%


The picture for London alone, in terms of owner occupied versus Private Rented Sector, is very different. In the capital:

Owner occupiers 47%
Private Rented Sector 30%
Social rented sector 22%


Is renting privately the most expensive option?

When people talk about affordability issues, they often say that the amount people pay in rent is way more than a mortgage repayment would be for the same property. And they’re right, if you look at the headline figures for the percentage of household income spent on mortgage payments and rent:

  • People buying with a mortgage: 18% 
  • Social renters: 28% (37% if housing benefit is excluded)
  • Private renters: 34% (39% if housing benefit is excluded)

Although it looks as though it’s twice as expensive for tenants as for homeowners, the reality is this does not compare like with like. Homeowners pay for buildings insurance, maintenance, repairs and upgrades to their home which can easily run to thousands of pounds a year and they’re costs that tenants don’t have to worry about. In addition, homeowners put down a deposit and pay to own part of the property, rather than rent it. 

So, how affordable is rent in the Private Rented Sector? Well, the survey data showed the average for England as a whole was £192 per week: £309 in London and £158 outside the capital. That’s £832 a month.

Of the 4.7 million households renting, just 9% were either in arrears at the time of the survey or had been at some point during the year – that’s the same percentage as five years ago. If you’re a long-term landlord, although you’re probably going to have a tenant fall behind with their rent at some stage, the good news is that more than 90% of tenants are paying in full and on time.


Who are today’s tenants?

In terms of age, two thirds of lead tenants in the Private Rented Sector are under 45 – almost double the case a decade ago: 

  2006-7 20016-17
Proportion of 25 to 34 year olds in the Private Rented Sector 27% 46%
Proportion of 35 to 44 year olds in the Private Rented Sector 11% 29%


This clearly shows that adults are staying in the Private Rented Sector for longer, rather than buying their own home. Perhaps they can’t afford to buy, have had issues due to the recession, or it may just suit their lifestyle, but the fact is that more working adults and families are renting long term.

The survey also found that 60% of private tenants expect to buy at some point in the future, which leaves a fairly large proportion who don’t expect to ever buy. So it seems fair to assume that at least a third of tenants see renting as their only option. 


In response to this, you might think about:

  1. Offering longer-term tenancies (if your mortgage lender permits that) to give tenants more security


  2. Allowing tenants to make small changes to the property to personalise it, e.g repainting and changing fittings. Bear in mind that some tenants will be renting for longer than other people might own a home.

The other thing it’s useful to know is that 38% of private tenants have dependent children. So, if you have a two or three-bedroom property, you could make sure it appeals to families by making it as child friendly as possible, for example:

  • Ensuring the garden is secure – walled or fenced and gated
  • Creating a small room that could be used as a playroom 
  • Giving people the option of repainting a child’s bedroom.

You can read the full headline report on the GOV.UK website.

For more information on letting in the UK, make sure to read our landlord guide. If you are interested in letting your property, book your rental valuation with us today.

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