The idea of a “typical tenant” has disappeared from the UK’s private rental sector. They no longer exist – according to the country’s largest property franchise Belvoir.
Middle-aged professionals are now renting alongside teenage students in a market that has turned on its head in the last two decades.
“It says as much about our society, today, as it does about the country’s housing crisis,” says Nathan Crombie who owns the Belvoir office on Western Rd in Brighton,
“Divorce, redundancy and relocation are now common reasons for renting a home – and even flat-sharing with strangers – as property prices carry on rising and availability continues to drop.
“At one time you might have pictured a typical tenant as a university undergraduate or low income earner, but that’s old hat now. The private residential property market just isn’t that simple these days – especially in London.”
Belvoir’s comments come after new figures show nearly 20% of people rent their home in the private sector – almost double the 2003 figure. And in London, alone, the number of private tenants has trebled.
The sector is now a vital provider for Britain’s chronic housing crisis where new build targets are not being met and a 60 per cent increase in the price of an average UK home is squeezing out all but the most affluent buyer – in all age and social groups.
It’s one reason why flat sharing is becoming an option for a growing number of people in their 40s and 50s – and Saga has reported that a third of over-50s are renting.
“The tenant generation used to be quite young – from students through to singles and couples who saw renting as a better way of using their income – but it has a much broader demographic profile these days,” says Nathan.
There are several reasons:
- The young people of 20 years ago are now grown up, may never have earned enough to buy their own home, and the older you get the more difficult it becomes to get a mortgage.
- With stagnant wage growth, and rising house prices, young people just don’t stand a chance on the housing ladder.
- Others opt to rent as a lifestyle choice knowing that their monthly overheads are fixed.
- At the top end of the scale many business people are renting weekday bases close to their work and commuting home at weekends.
- And with rising divorce rates, couples that split are discovering the true cost of living alone.
But, as demand rises, single people living alone in family homes also hamper the UK’s limited housing stock. According to the Office for National Statistics the number of one-person households is expected to increase by 25 per cent in the next 23 years – to hog 33 per cent of the total market by 2039.
Dorian Gonsalves, Managing Director of the 170-branch Belvoir network, says that a solution is long overdue to help flesh out the UK housing stock that is desperately needed by 10 million tenants.
“The private rented sector needs good quality family homes,” says Dorian, “but a rising number is destined to stay occupied by single people – which will not solve the overall problem.
“So-called ‘accidental landlords’ are helping. Typically, people who inherit a property or house owners who struggle to sell their homes and choose to rent them out instead to provide an additional income or supplement their pension.”
Nathan adds: “This will always be part of a big growth area. But it can be a tricky one for new ‘accidental landlords’ who are not as familiar as experienced professional landlords with the pitfalls and realities.
“That’s where a good letting agent, with a deep understanding of local market trends and availability, becomes invaluable.
“In a UK market, with the many challenges it faces, we are better placed than most to match the right landlords, and the most suitable local properties, to satisfy the tastes and needs of today’s wide variety of tenants who are looking for them.”