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Rents to increase as struggling first-time buyers stay tenants for longer

2-minute read

Mollie Millman

27 October 2020

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Rents have increased 1.5 per cent, according to new figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Its latest rental data covers the year to September 2020, with the annual rate of growth unchanged compared to the previous month.

It’s evidence of how the rental market has remained robust during the challenges of the global pandemic.

It means that a £500 a month property in September 2019, which saw its rent increase by the national average, would be rented for £507.50 a month in September this year.

Tenant demand is continuing to rise

The data found that private rental prices also grew by 1.5 per cent in Wales – the same amount as in England – although the rate of growth was slower in Scotland, at 0.6 per cent.

The ONS research stated that the growth in rental prices paid by tenants in the UK has generally slowed since the beginning of 2016, driven mainly by a slowdown in London during the same period.

However, it added that rental growth has started to pick up since the end of 2018, amid strengthening rises in London – although overall rental growth has remained broadly flat since November 2019.

It follows separate research from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) that found tenant demand is continuing to rise across the UK, apart from in London, which experienced a fall.

The ONS said supply and demand pressures take time to feed through to its rental prices index, which reflects price changes for all private rental properties rather than just newly advertised rental properties.

Mortgage struggles for tenants

Olu Olufote, chief executive of RenterBuyer – a platform that helps homebuyers share their experiences – suggested that while rents are currently stable, they look set to increase.

He explained this is because first-time buyers are finding it harder to secure the required finance as lenders tighten their criteria.

He said: “For first-time buyers with smaller deposits, getting a mortgage is becoming harder by the day, and the natural escalation of renters to buyers looks set to be disrupted until lenders regain confidence and become more comfortable again at higher loan-to-values.

“The result will be increased demand for rental property, which will almost certainly mean upward pressure on rents in the months ahead, just as the full impact of Covid-19 on the economy starts to bite.

“The winter looks set to be a challenging one for first time buyers and tenants. In the meantime, landlords are likely to continue to take advantage of the situation.

“To achieve their goal of getting onto the property ladder, tenants will need to become savvier with their planning and more streetwise with their choices than ever."

Mary-Anne Bowring, from the lettings platform PlanetRent, said: “The ONS figures highlight the resilience of the UK rental market, with steady rental growth across the board despite a turbulent period due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“For institutional investors such as pension funds and insurers looking to enter the UK rental market in search of steady income streams to match their liabilities, the figures are good news.

“Similarly, for buy-to-let landlords, it shows there is money to still be made in rental property, despite facing a tougher regulatory and tax environment.”

What do you think about the ONS data? Let us know in the comments below.

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