Stepping off the housing ladder needn’t be a backward move

With house prices soaring, more people are choosing  to rent long term

It may make hard reading for younger people looking to buy their first home, but there are those who choose to vacate their home-ownership ambitions, sell-up and move into rented accommodation. And guess what, many of them are happy about it.

Take Kathryn Martino, 34, from Bath, who actively stepped off the property ladder five years back.

“This isn’t a question of not being able to afford to buy – far from it. It’s simply that I choose not too as I’ve got used to the lifestyle. I’m currently debt-free and don’t fancy being in debt for the sake of having a place to call home. I’ve already got that, but without the ties,” she says.

Kathryn has no desire to buy again and thinks there are better things she could spend her money on.

 Her one-bedroom apartment in the centre of town suits her and her husband perfectly; the pair enjoy the flexibility, the luxury of moving around, and the savings on maintenance or repair bills when something goes wrong, which they argue generally makes for increased, disposable income and better quality of life.

 “My husband and I also love not having to commit to a certain city and should we choose to move on, we wouldn’t have the hassle of having to sell a property,” says Kathryn.

 Home ownership has been falling since 2006, according to the Government’s English Housing Survey published this week. Around one in three homeowners in England are pensioners with younger generations frozen out of the market by soaring prices. But instead of lamenting the fact that owning your own property is out of reach, is it time to embrace long-term renting?

Nick Cooper, managing director of property firm Northwood, said: “We’re seeing a whole cross-section of society privately renting their homes. As house prices continue to rise, long-term tenancies are becoming the norm, allowing people to live in houses and areas where they wouldn’t necessarily be able to buy. Renting is no longer seen as a short-term option or stop-gap measure.”

Home ownership reached its peak in 2003 when 71 per cent owned their own home. Fast forward to today, however, and outlooks are changing. Properties are too expensive, real wages are lower, mortgages are harder to come by and people stay single for longer and get divorced more often – all of which makes home ownership a less-viable option. By 2020 in the capital, for instance, there will be more renters than owners.

 Rents are rising, although at a lower rate than many people think – figures from the Office for National Statistics show they rose by 1.3 per cent in the  12 months to May, which is well below the rate of inflation, although hikes in London (up by  2.2 per cent) outpaced other  regions considerably.

A particular worry is that not all letting agents and landlords are prepared for the changing needs of the modern market. Much of the private rented sector is still based on short-term lets – if tenants are seen as disposable, there are far more vulnerable to being treated unfairly by agents and landlords alike.

Housing charity Shelter has also pointed out that having to move can be hugely disruptive to families with children, potentially having only two months’ notice to pack up their things and move out should their landlord decide it’s time for them to go. The Labour Party is in agreement, supporting the idea of longer-term tenancies and stable rents in a recent policy review.

One issue is that there are now many more “accidental landlords”, many of whom are not in a position to commit to long-term lets. However, it is not inconceivable to imagine that landlords who are keen to keep tenants in place for many years (preferring the security and no void periods) can advertise their properties as such, while those who prefer to let on a more temporary basis can be matched up with like-minded tenants.

Lenders can be a barrier as many buy-to-let mortgages restrict the length of tenancies that landlords can initially offer to 12 months, but some of them are showing willing – Woolwich already allows tenancies of up to two years and The Mortgage Works, part of Nationwide Building Society, has recently changed its terms to allow landlords to offer lets of up to three years.

“Other lenders should follow Nationwide’s lead and accept tenancies longer than 12 months as this provides more stability for tenants and there is no real reason why they shouldn’t,” says Mark Harris, of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients. “Some lenders already allow longer-term housing association lets or corporate lets.”

While we wait for the market to catch up, there are things that tenants can do to protect themselves. If you’re looking for a home to rent you should stick to professional lettings agents with accreditation from ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) and insurance to back them up – this will at least give you somewhere to go if something goes wrong.

Brush up on your rights and obligations. All new tenancies are on an assured shorthold basis, but it will either be a fixed-term tenancy running for a set period such as six months, or a periodic tenancy rolling on a weekly/monthly basis. Legally, you are free to live there, undisturbed, unless the tenancy is ended properly, or your landlord gets a court order to evict you (which is, unfortunately,  very easy for them to get). The landlord must put your deposit in a protection scheme, and comply with regulations regarding the safety and repair of utilities such as gas and electricity. For their part, tenants must keep the property in good repair.

Problems can arise if landlords prefer to evict their tenants rather than carry out costly repairs, but you should seek some advice if this is the case – try your local council, or get in touch with Shelter – and if your landlord tries to evict you without serving you proper notice or without a court order, you may be able to get your own court order to force them to allow you back in.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sale...

    Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer (Trainee) - City, London

    £25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A large financial services company...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Assistant - Financial Services Sector - London

    £20400 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and highly reputable organisat...

    Recruitment Genius: Financial Services Graduate Training Scheme

    £20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a successful and establ...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
    Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

    Berlusconi's world of sleaze

    The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
    Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

    Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

    Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
    Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

    Could gaming arcades be revived?

    The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
    Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

    Heard the one about menstruation?

    Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage