Landlords move to accommodate rising number of tenants

As buying a home is no longer an option for many, the market is seeking ways to increase long-term, private renting. Chiara Cavaglieri reports

Britons have long held on to the belief that owning your home is the ultimate goal. But after a decade of house prices rising three times as fast as incomes, followed by a decline in the number of mortgages available after the bust, owning bricks and mortar is no longer a viable option for everyone.

"There is a lot of pressure on Brits to own their own homes, even though in the current market there are numerous barriers to entry, especially for the younger generation," says Matt Hutchinson, a director of flat and house share website, "Soaring living costs mean it's a struggle for many households just to keep their heads above water each month, let alone have enough spare cash to put aside towards a deposit".

An estimated 1.5 million people aged 18 to 30 who are unable to access home ownership or social renting will be pushed into renting privately by 2020, according to new research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Those who don't qualify for benefits but struggle to save enough money for the colossal deposits that most home loans now require, are coming to terms with the fact that they may be renting for the long haul.

A gloomy prediction for some, but others say this isn't necessarily a bad thing. What is clear, however, is that if a generation of lifelong tenants is the future, we need to address the severe lack of quality and affordable rental properties available.

"With an ever-decreasing supply of affordable homes, the average age of first-time buyers is now 39 and rising," says Harry Downes, the managing director of Fizzy Living, a new private rental initiative in London. "Add the difficulties in getting a mortgage and the high deposits required and you can see that young people being excluded from the market is an ever-growing problem.

"Putting in place an affordable, well-run rental sector must be the right solution."

Elsewhere in Europe sentiment is already far more favourable towards renting and it makes sense that the UK is heading that way too – particularly as young people are starting families much later and are less likely to benefit from the returns from soaring house prices seen by their parents' generation.

So if renting isn't such a terrible option long term, how do we address the many problems, from amateur landlords and short leases to rents at record highs, all of which are currently plaguing the industry?

"The difficulty is that Britain is not prepared to be a nation of renters just yet," says Mr Hutchinson, who cites average leases of just 12 months that offer little for people seeking greater security, as well as an industry that has been over-legislated in an attempt to clear up rogue landlords, most of whom ignore the legislation anyway.

"The solution is to free up the red tape surrounding rental processes and come down harder on rogue landlords," he says. "We have to make the industry accessible for renters and a viable alternative to buying, not just in the immediate future but over the long term".

Hoping to offer a solution to one part of the market at least, Fizzy Living yesterday opened its first block of new rented apartments in Canning Town, east London. These homes are targeted at what are dubbed the "Rentysomethings" and will cost from £1,050 a month for a one-bed flat and £1,450 for two-beds.

This is not the cheaper end of renting, but Fizzy Living says it is marketing itself as professionally run student accommodation, to attract young people aged 25 to 35 embarking on their careers. Tenants will be offered furniture and broadband packages, on-site car parking and cycle storage, and crucially, access to a dedicated property manager to sort out issues quickly. The company, which has another site in Epsom, Surrey, is backed by £30m from Thames Valley Housing Association which will manage the flats.

"The social-housing market is going to become more and more reliant on the private-rented sector because of the lack of properties being built and the huge, council waiting lists. For this reason, more landlords need to be incentivised to see buy-to-let as a business which is run in a professional way," says Paul Shamplina, a member of the Landlord Syndicate and founder of Landlord Action.

If other housing associations shift their focus to private rentals, they are in a great position to use their history of developing affordable housing to better meet the needs of young people, improving the quality of rented accommodation and forcing private landlords to pull up their socks too, he suggests.

The National Landlords Association (NLA) has said landlords are already reacting to the increasing need for stable, long-term tenancies, saying this week that over half of tenancies now last between two and three years.

However, there is still clearly a lot of work to be done before stable, long-term tenancies are a reality for all tenants. And, realistically, as landlords push for higher rentals from a conveyor belt of short-term tenants, there is little hope of this until the chronic shortage of supply fuelling that fire is addressed.

The Fizzy Living blocks appears to be a step towards that end, not least because a professional housing association, such as Thames Valley, is more accountable than an individual landlord. And with large-scale accommodation devoted to renting, tenants might expect better conditions too.

More importantly, they are less likely to be turfed out of their home at will – as some people experienced this summer when greedy landlords saw an opportunity to cash in on the Olympics. Only 8 per cent of private, rented-sector landlords are full time, which means the rest are using their properties as an investment, or as a second income, which many consider a real concern for an industry growing at such a rate.

But, there are still plenty of opportunities for tenants to help themselves. Not allowing letting agencies to bully them is a good start as many charge excessive fees for organising assured short-hold tenancy agreements (which can be downloaded for free from a variety of online sources) and for credit checks.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Property search
Property search
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk