Age of the PRS: England’s private rented sector has doubled in size in the last decade

The English Housing Survey explores trends in homeownership and the growth of the private rented sector

The latest English Housing Survey from the DCLG zeroes in on the private rented sector, discovering some interesting trends and harsh truths about this fast-growing segment of the property market.

There’s plenty more besides rental insights in this latest edition of the survey; here are some quick links to the big chapters:


The English Housing Survey: Key points on the PRS

  • The private rented sector remains the second largest tenure in England, and has grown in the last decade or so.

In 2015-16, 4.5 million households were renting in the private sector. This represents 20% of all households in England. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the proportion of private renters was steady at around 10%. However, the sector has more than doubled in size since then, and there are now 2.5 million more households in the private renting sector than there were in 2000.

  • The increase in the size of the private rented sector has been particularly pronounced among younger households who are now more likely to be renting in the private rented sector than to own a home.

Although younger people have always been over-represented in the private rented sector, the proportion of younger people in this sector has increased over the last decade. The proportion of those aged 25 to 34 who lived in the private rented sector increased from 24% in 2005-06 to 46% in 2015-16. Over the same period, there was a corresponding decrease in the proportion of people in this age group in both the owner occupied (from 56% in 2005-06 to 38% in 2015-16) and social rented (from 20% in 2005-06 to 16% in 2015-16) sectors.

Age of HRP, by tenure, 2015-16

  • There has been a large increase in the number of families in the private rented sector, particularly lone parent families.

The proportion of households living in the private rented sector who had dependent children increased from 30% in 2005-06 to 36% in 2015-16. Given the growth of the private rented sector over this period, this equates to about one million more households with dependent children in the private rented sector.

This increase was particularly apparent for lone parents with dependent children. Between 2005-06 and 2015-16, the proportion of households in the private rented sector that were lone parents with dependent children increased from 9% to 11%.

An increase from around 229,000 households to 519,000 households. There was a corresponding decrease in such households in social rented sector.

  • One in five private renters are dissatisfied with their status as a private renter.

In 2015-16, 21% of private renters were dissatisfied with their status as private renters (9% of whom were very dissatisfied with their current status), compared with 10% of social renters and less than 1% of owner occupiers.

  • Private renters spend a significantly greater proportion of their household income on their housing costs than social renters, but are less likely to be in arrears.

On average, households in the private rented sector spent 35% (including Housing Benefit) of their income on rent. Social renters spend, on average, 28%.

Some 9% of private renters were either currently in arrears or had been in the previous 12 months, compared with 25% of social renters.

The average (mean) weekly rent in the private sector was £184. The weekly average was far higher in London (£300) compared with locations outside London (£153). Average median rents were slightly lower.

The average weekly rent for private renters (£184) exceeded the average weekly cost of a mortgage (£159). Average weekly social rents were notably lower; £95 for local authority renters and £106 for housing association renters.

Mean and median rents in the private rented sector, 2015-16

  • Churn in the private rented sector is higher than in other sectors.

In 2015-16, 787,000 households moved within the private rented sector (i.e. from one privately rented home to another) and 196,000 new households were created. There were 187,000 moves into the sector, of which 72%, (135,000) were from owner occupation. There were 256,000 moves out of the sector, with 67% (172,000) of these moving to owner occupied accommodation and 84,000 moving into the social rented sector.

  • Most private renters move because they want to but one in ten was asked to leave by their landlord.

When asked about their most recent move, most private renters said that their last tenancy ended because they wanted it to (73%). A tenth (11%) said that their landlord or agent ended the tenancy.

Among those private renters who had moved in the last three years because their landlord had asked them to, roughly two thirds (63%) were asked to leave because the landlord wanted to use or sell the property.

Mean length of residence in current accommodation (years), by age, 2015-16

  • While the energy efficiency and quality of the private rented sector has improved, standards lag behind the social rented sector.

In 2015, the average SAP rating among private rented homes was 60. This average rating was similar to owner occupied homes, although the distribution of EER bands varied. Overall the private rented stock was less energy efficient than the social rented stock which had an average SAP rating of 67. This difference is partly explained by the private rented sector having an ‘older’ housing stock which is generally less well insulated.

Over a quarter (28%) of private rented homes failed to meet the Decent Homes standard in 2015. The comparative figure for social sector rented sector was 13%. Although the private rented sector has always performed less well than other tenures using this measure of housing quality, there was a marked improvement in the proportion of non-decent private rented homes over the 2006 to 2013 period from 47% to 30%. Since then the proportion of non-decent homes in the sector has remained virtually unchanged.

Read the full report here (PDF)