Finally, Some Good News For UK Property Renters

Illustration: Anna Sudit
Renting in the UK is the pits. As a private renter, you have very few rights, you may be at the mercy of a cowboy landlord and, if you live in a big city like London or Oxford, you’re probably paying an absolute fortune. (And if you’re living alone, the cost is even higher.)
But there is one tiny glimmer of sunshine among the wider doom and gloom of the UK housing system. Average annual rents have fallen for the first time in six years, according to the country’s biggest estate and lettings agency. We didn’t see that one coming.
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In February, the average rent in Britain was £5 lower than the previous year at £921 a month, the figures from Countrywide showed. It’s the first time the average rent has dropped since 2011, which is of course good news, but we’ll understand if you don’t think it warrants popping open a bottle.
Countrywide attributed the fall to a recent increase in the number of properties available, mainly in London, before last year’s hike in stamp duty. This meant there were 10% more homes available for letting. There has also been a drop in the number of tenants looking for a home, particularly in London, the agency said.
This drop in tenant demand, combined with the greater number of homes available to rent in the capital, meant London saw the biggest drop in rents. They fell by 4.3% over the year to £1,246 a month on average, meaning Londoners are now paying around £63 less each month versus last year.
Rents also fell in the south-east, by 2.6% on average to £1,152, but they continue to rise in some other parts of the UK. Rents rose by 5.3% in Wales to £636 per month on average, and in the east of England they grew 3.1% to £945.
Johnny Morris, research director at Countrywide, said recent changes in the property market could be attributed to Brexit. “Economic and housing sentiment – both in sales and rental markets – has been affected by our vote to leave the EU, in London more than anywhere else. This uncertainty causes tenants to be more cautious, meaning they're less likely to move and more likely to look for cheaper accommodation, e.g. sharing,” he told the Guardian.
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“With the private rented sector home to around three-quarters of new migrants, any future substantial shift in migration patterns would likely have a knock-on effect on rents.”
Morris also said 2017 looks set to be “a rare year where rents rise faster in the north of the country than in the south”.
While this tiny fall is obviously to be welcomed, the cost of renting continues to blight many people’s lives in Britain. The average rent is still £112 higher than in 2007, the previous peak, reported the Guardian. Meanwhile, average incomes have barely risen since the financial crisis.
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