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Are we becoming a country of lifetime renters?

Why renting is the new buying in the UK

are we becoming a country of lifetime renters

Are you renting – perhaps considering buying, but put off by rocketing house prices and the costs involved? Well you’re not the only one as figures released last year indicate that more people are renting than ever before. While it used to be par for the course for previous generations to spend a little time renting while saving for a deposit to buy and then get on to the housing ladder around the same time as getting a foot in the door at work, now everything has changed. The property landscape is completely different and, despite various government initiatives, rising house prices have made purchasing property out of the question for many of us. Shelter has estimated that it would take the average person 14 years to save to own a property and that’s if you don’t want to buy in one of the peak priced areas, such as London.

Priced out of the market

The main reason for the growth in renting over buying is the incredible rise in house prices in the UK. In July last year house prices had risen a breathtaking 10.2% on the year before and various estate agents have predicted growth in London house prices of 30% over the next five years. Although house prices were reported as rising at their slowest pace for seven months before Christmas they are still much higher than the year before and many areas have experienced double-digit growth. In October last year, for example, the average price for a property in London was £500,000; the average cost for a first time buyer in the UK as a whole was £208,000 and for existing homeowners the average cost of a property was £312,000, which was 9.7% higher than the year before.

Renting for a lifetime

What this situation means for many of us is that renting – particularly in cities like London – is going to be the way that we inhabit property, probably for our entire lifetimes. There are some great advantages to renting, among them the fact that structural repairs are never the tenant’s responsibility and if you don’t like the area, the landlord or the property itself then you have much more freedom to simply move when you’re not tied down by ownership. However, there are also disadvantages that many of us are well aware of, from the two months notice with which we can be removed from a property, to the fact that it often takes a landlord far too long to carry out repairs. 

A European approach?

Figures from 2011 indicated that around 13% of people were, at that time, renting privately in the UK. That is compared to 51% in Switzerland and 40% in Germany. While the UK has only recently begun moving towards being a country of lifetime renters, in these other European countries it is quite normal not to have expectations to buy for most people. The main difference is that in Germany, for example, people have a right to make the property their home when renting, there are better protections for tenants and contracts are longer, which means that people can settle rather than feel constantly concerned about moving. In recent years we have seen recognition of the fact that the UK renting landscape needs to change to acknowledge that more people are now renting, and there have been new initiatives such as deposit protection. However, there is still a long way to go until we get to a point where renting in the UK doesn’t feel like a second-class system compared to the protections European renters have.

The Tenant’s Voice is a part of the changing fabric of the UK rental market, helping tenants enforce their tenancy rights and campaigning to make the market a better place for the increasing numbers of us who will rent for life. Explore our site further to see if we might be able to help you, from the Forums to our Help & Advice Guides and Vetted Letting Agents.

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This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.

We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our Moving category.

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