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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

    Helpdesk Analyst

    £23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...

    Senior Helpdesk Analyst / Service Desk Co-ordinator

    £27000 per annum + pension, 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ind...

    Senior Pensions Administrator

    £23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London