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February 13

by Millie Wickens
Buy to let – The state of rented homes

Every two years, the Housing Ministry publishes the English Housing Survey – a detailed look at the property business that offers private landlords an insight into how the housing market has performed in the previous two years, the most recent being 2016-17.

The latest official data profiles the state of the buy to let economy and the tenants who are renting private homes.

While the condition of buy to let homes is improving, many still appear to be overcrowded, poorly insulated and riddled with damp, according to official data.

The latest edition of the survey for 2016-17 asked renters about the homes they live in, revealing some recurring defects.

Although 40 per cent of landlords earn more than £20,000 a year from letting property and own 4.9 million homes – a fifth of the country’s 23.7 million properties – 27 per cent of properties fail the government’s decent home standard.

Tenants report that eight per cent of private rented homes have problems with damp, which equates to 392,000 properties.

“Private rented dwellings were, on average, older and therefore more likely to have defects to the damp proof course, roof covering, gutters, or down pipes, which could lead to problems with rising or penetrating damp affecting at least one room in the property,” says the survey.

However, the number of rented homes with condensation or mould dropped from six per cent to four per cent – which is still 186,000 properties.

Buy to let homes also tend to have lower energy efficiency ratings than the rest of the housing stock.

“The social sector was more energy efficient than the private sector, in part due to wider use of wall insulation, but also because of dwelling type. In particular, the social sector contained a higher proportion of flats, which have less exposed surface area (external walls and roofs) through which heat can be lost, than detached or semi-detached houses,” said the survey.

The report also explained that a lot of private rented homes are older and harder to insulate than more modern properties; around 16 per cent of these homes are without central heating.

Other key findings related to private renters included:

  • 7 million tenants (60 per cent) hope to buy their own home. Renters hoping to buy a home were asked how long they expected to rent for. One in four (25 per cent) plan to buy within two years, but 41 per cent thought they would rent for five years or more before they did so
  • The number of 25 to 34 year olds renting has jumped from 27 per cent of the age group to 46 per cent, while the number owning a home has dropped from 57 per cent to 37 per cent
  • Three out of four renters (74 per cent) have a job, with 63 per cent in full-time work and 11 per cent working part-time; another nine per cent were retired, six percent were in full-time education and four percent were unemployed
  • The average rent, including London, was £192 a week
  • Rents are higher in London than elsewhere, at £309 a week in the capital – about twice the average rent of £158 a week outside London
  • Home owners with a mortgage spent an average 19 per cent of their income on mortgage payments, but rent took up 41 per cent of household income for private renters. Excluding Housing Benefit, the average proportion of income spent on rent was 46 per cent for private renters
  • One in 10 renters (nine per cent) were either currently in arrears or had been in the past 12 months – the same number as recorded in 2011-12 and equivalent to 392,000 buy to let homes
  • 50 per cent of tenants had lived in a private rented home for fewer than five years, while 24 per cent had rented for between five and nine years and 27 per cent had been tenants for more than 10 years.

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