We’re fast becoming, or already have become, a nation of renters, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that on the face of it. In a number of countries across the EU and beyond, long term rentals into later life are the norm and they work well for a lot of people.
But in the UK, there is almost a feeling that we are being forced to rent. We have the freedom to choose budget, property, location and so on, with the obvious limitation being our financial threshold. So where does this feeling come from?
The historic fabric of our property market has been crafted by an aspiration to own your own home, driven largely by previous generations. But while our parents or grandparents enjoyed relative affordability, explosive growth in house prices has put buying out of reach for many in this day and age.
So, we’re ‘forced’ to rent and that isn’t cheap either, particularly with wage growth failing to keep pace it’s near on impossible to exist in the rental market while saving that all important deposit.
This wouldn’t be an issue if the rentals sector was a harmonious, peaceful place to call home. But unfortunately, a lack of regulations and a reputation for foul play cultivated by a small percentage of deceptive tenants, landlords and letting agents means it is not.
It’s a strange place where the landlord, tenant and letting agent all bring something to the relationship that is mutually beneficial. The house, the service and the rent to pay for it. But for some reason, there is underlying friction that goes back and forth between all involved.
Increasing rent, increasing fees, a need for the tenant to feel like they have to accept sub-standard conditions or rush to pay eye-watering sums to secure a place, it all boils down to one thing. A lack of suitable and sustainable rental stock.
In an attempt to re-level the property playing field, the government has waged a bit of a war of late on the buy-to-let landlord. Increased stamp duty, increased tax and now a potential rental cap. Primarily for the tenant but to also avoid a landlord sitting on multiple properties that could be better serving the sales market. They’ve also moved to scrap letting agent fees, again to help the tenant and the financial barrier of renting.
While all of this is very noble, it has only exacerbated the situation. Landlords have been leaving in their droves and while rental properties have been hitting the sales market, it does little to help those resigned to the rental sector, unable to buy a home of their own.
In fact, all it has really done is make the supply issue worse and smokescreen the fact that the Government has failed to build any meaningful level of housing stock and is resorting to thieving them from the rental sector via the exodus of buy-to-let landlords.
The rental and sales sectors are two very different animals and so evolving one to suit the other is not the way forward. We need to see separate strategies implemented for each with a focus on solving the problems at hand, not penalising one party or the other for a quick political win.
The rental sector can be better and that’s one thing we’re building towards at ideal flat mate. Putting the focus on the people, what they want and how to deliver it. When you remove the underlying friction and the agent, landlord and tenant are all happy, the rental sector can be a pretty nice place to be!