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Happy renters, “quick buck” landlords, house prices, the future of city centres, and other property news

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Against a background of continued growth in the housing market generally and an ongoing exodus from cities to the countryside, recent news headlines saw several stories of particular relevance to private sector landlords and their tenants.

Let’s take a closer look at those stories behind the property news headlines.

More than 4 in 5 private renters are happy with accommodation

Landlords have reason to celebrate the findings of the latest English Housing Survey, which finds that 83% of all private sector renters are content with their accommodation – a proportion that has remained more or less constant during the past decade, according to a report by the National Residential Landlords’ Association (NRLA) on the 8th of July.

The survey also found that tenants generally prefer to deal directly with the landlord rather than through a letting agent. While 85% expressed satisfaction after dealing directly with their landlord, only 79% said the same of the letting agent.

75% of tenants said they were content with how their landlord handled repairs and maintenance of the property – the highest satisfaction rating in more than a decade.

These results for the private rented sector compare favourably with the social rented sector where satisfaction with the accommodation currently stands at just 78% and only 66% are content with the way repairs and maintenance issues are handled.

Landlords moving to short lets to make a “quick buck”

The leader of Torbay Council – a popular tourist hotspot – has criticised landlords in the area for switching their properties from regular, long-term lets to Airbnb letting solely to make a “quick buck”.

A story in Landlord Today on the 9th of July explained that local, longer-term tenants are finding it increasingly difficult to find private rented accommodation, with three-bedroomed properties commanding rents of more than £1,000 a month, and still attracting more than 50 applicants for every advertised vacancy.

For locals on low incomes, affordable social housing is already in short supply, said the council leader, and the changes in society following the lifting of recent pandemic restrictions, compounded by those landlords switching to short term lets, are all making the situation much worse.

House prices set to continue rising as supply shrinks

On the 8th of July, the BBC reported conclusions recently voiced by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) on the continuing rise in house prices.

Despite the reduction in the impact of the stamp duty holiday at the end of June and its complete lifting at the end of September, unchecked and seemingly unrelenting demand continues to drive house prices skyward.

Yet in the face of that unremitting demand, housing supply is actually falling – with the number of new properties coming onto the market dropping by a third during the course of June.

Because of the continuing disequilibrium between supply and demand, the majority of RICS members predict that prices will also continue to rise during the year ahead.

A similar picture is reflected in the private rented sector, where demand also outstrips supply. As a result, a 3% increase in average rents across the country is predicted over the next 12 months.

New figures show rental market rising 8.5% a year

Letting Agent Today on the 12th of July reported that rent levels have already risen by an annual 8.5% in the year to the end of June.

Looking at rent levels over the past decade, a leading estate agency has found that four of the ten fastest periods of growth have been recorded during months when the country was in lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In line with a common theme in today’s housing market, there is not only buoyant demand for rental accommodation, but supply is also relatively scarce, especially in rural and suburban areas. Inevitably, therefore, rent levels have risen.

Indeed, during June, eight of the eleven regions of the UK recorded the biggest average rent increases since the lettings index was first begun in 2014. Only London, the West Midlands, and Wales failed to report record bursts of growth in rental income.

Are cities centres doomed?

In an article on the 12th of July, Property Wire reflected on the future of our cities and asked whether they were in danger of becoming doomed.

That was the theme of a leading architect in his address to the online Housing and Build to Rent Conference.

He encouraged local councils, investors, and developers to re-imagine the city centre as a place of culture and enjoyment, where many retail outlets can be re-purposed as cafes, restaurants, museums, and places of entertainment, together with the conversion of major buildings into residential use – such as the planned redevelopment of many former John Lewis’ department stores into as many as 10,000 homes for rent.