The latest English Housing Survey has just been released analysing the UK’s private rented sector, and the report has uncovered some interesting results about today’s tenants, writes Eleanor Harvey at Buy Association.

A fifth of the UK population now lives in privately rented accommodation, the English Housing Survey has revealed in its latest report for 2016/2017, accounting for 4.7 million households. This figure has doubled from the 10% of people living in the PRS back in 1996/1997, and is a huge leap over the past decade from 12% in 2006/2007.

With this changing trend to rent rather than buy, many are pinning the blame on the flailing housing market and out of reach house prices forcing people to remain in rented accommodation as they are unable to buy a home.

Attitudes towards renting have shifted

However, the survey actually revealed that an overwhelming majority (84%) of people are actually satisfied with their accommodation, indicating that rather than being obliged to rent, it is a positive choice made by hundreds of thousands of people in the sector today.

Furthermore, almost three quarters (72%) of private renters were satisfied with their landlords in terms of how they carried out repairs or maintenance, compared to just 66% of satisfied social renters, and over two thirds (68%) were very or fairly satisfied with their current tenure.

Rental properties have improved

Another key finding is that the energy efficiency and quality of the PRS housing stock has vastly improved over the past 10 years, with the proportion of “non-decent” homes (those that did not meet the Decent Homes Standard) declining from 47% in 2006 to just 27% in 2016. This situation that is set to see further improvement as more regulatory changes come into effect, as well as the burgeoning build-to-rent sector adding even higher levels of living standards and tenant satisfaction.

The number of damp properties has also depleted significantly since the last survey was compiled, while the proportion of homes in states of disrepair has also improved greatly, another sign that the sector’s improvements could be a key reason why renting is no longer seen as a second-class choice.

How the data can help landlords and buy-to-let investors

In terms of who the market now serves, the biggest change was seen in the proportion of those aged 35 to 44 living in privately rented homes. While in 1996/1997, just 16% of this age group were private tenants, the latest results show this has risen to almost a quarter (24%).

The types of households in the sector have also shifted over the years, with families with dependent children now accounting for 24% compared to 15% 20 years ago. The biggest proportion of households (27%) are made up of one person, while couples with no children account for 21% of private rented properties.

For developers and property investors, as well as buy-to-let landlords assessing their target tenant, this data could crucial for keeping up with the trends in the evolving PRS market.

David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, commented: “Whilst we should never be complacent, these results confound the myths that some have peddled about the private rented sector.