Government’s annual housing survey underlines need for more professional rental sector, says property chief

The English Housing Survey, an annual report published by The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), has highlighted the continual shift towards private renting and the need for vastly improved standards for English homes.

Developers of build to rent (BTR) housing – clusters of apartments managed by companies – believe a more professional approach to renting could drive up standards and improve customer experience.

The new research reveals that 28 percent of homes in the private rented sector (PRS) failed to meet the Government’s Decent Homes standards, which takes into account the levels of disrepair, electrical safety, the health effects of issues such as damp and a range of other indicators. However, this does represent an improvement from a decade ago when the figure stood at 47 per cent.

Worryingly, the survey also identified that nearly one in five of those living in private renting lacked even basic fire protection such as smoke alarms.

The number of people renting privately has nearly doubled over the last decade. Around 4.5m household now rent, representing 20 per cent of all households in England today.

More young families are renting than ever before – up from 30 per cent in 2005-06 to 36 per cent in 2015-16, meaning that renting now has the highest proportion of young families.

The survey also highlighted the lack of security many suffer when renting from private landlords. Of those that had been asked to move out of their property, roughly two third (63 per cent) representing nearly 90,000 households, had been evicted because their landlord wanted to either use or sell the property.

In comparison those in the build to rent sector have a financial incentive to retain their customers for as long as possible. BTR developments are often backed by institutional investors who are looking for stable, long-term returns meaning that they’re unlikely to sell their properties.

The English Housing Survey found that dissatisfaction rates of those in the private rented sector was the highest of any tenure group, more than one in five renters are dissatisfied with their current accommodation, in comparison that figure sits at 10 percent for social housing and less than 1 percent of owner occupiers. The fact that people in social housing are happier with their homes than those in the rental sector could be down to the fact that social housing is professionally managed, whereas 97 percent of PRS stock is managed by non-professional landlords.

Jean Marc-Vandevivere, Chief Executive at PLATFORM_, said:

“The issues across the private rented sector are often ones of security, from tenancy length to fire protection. Those in the build to rent sector have a vested interest in keeping hold of their tenants and ensuring that the homes we provide are to the highest possible standard. The continual growth of the private rented sector demands a change in approach, we need to see a shift towards professionally managed homes that provide what renters are really looking for, a secure place to live and grow. Our focus on commuter hubs is about creating living space for professionals who value convenience and location over all else. For many, renting is a preferred option.”

Johnny Caddick, managing director at Moda Living, said:

“The many real concerns people have around renting are totally justified, but our aim is to address all of these with purpose-built developments that are managed 24/7 and which engender a real sense of community. We have a commercial imperative to do things properly, whereas traditional buy to let landlords have little incentive to maintain and upgrade knackered old properties. Renters in Britain deserve a better deal – as they receive in the U.S. and Europe.”