Home » What the 2023 English Housing Survey tells us about the PRS in England

What the 2023 English Housing Survey tells us about the PRS in England

For sale and to let boards outside Victorian terrace in Battersea

The English Housing Survey is a comprehensive annual government survey which is the main source of information about housing in England,. It’s used extensively by central and local government, together with landlords in the private rented sector and social housing.

A new edition of the Private Rented Sector section of the English Housing Survey was published on 13 July 2023 and covers the period 2021-22. It’s the latest information available to shed light on the PRS in England in 2023. Here’s the link to the Private Rented Sector part of last year’s survey.

This blog post discusses the key findings of the English Housing Survey, and what it says about the Private Rented Sector in England.

What does the English Housing Survey tell us about Private Renters?

HMO sharers

How big is the private rented sector in England in 2023?

The 2021-22 survey estimates there are 4.6 million households in the English Private Rented Sector, which at 19%, is almost one fifth of all households in England. This is a small increase from 4.4 million households in the 2022-21 survey, and the percentage of 19% is unchanged.

What is the age profile of the average renter in England?

Renters in the PRS are younger than social renters or owner occupiers. The average age of the main renter (technically, the Household Reference Person) in the PRS is 41. On the other hand, it’s 53 in the social rented sector and 57 for owner occupiers.

The most common age group in the PRS is those 25 to 34, which makes a third (33%) of private renters.

How many renters are UK or Irish nationals?

Nearly three quarters (74%) of private renters in England are either British or Irish nationals. This compares to 92% of social renters, and 96% of owner occupiers.

Put another way, 26% of private renters in England are not UK or Irish nationals, compared to 8% in social housing and 4% owner occupiers.

The PRS has the highest proportion of households from the EU (14%), compared to just 3% of social renters and 2% of owner occupiers.

What is the ethnicity of renters in England?

23% of private renters are of an “ethnic minority”, compared to 19% in social housing and 8% of owner occupiers. No further breakdown is given in the survey.

What is the most common household type for private renters?

The most common household in the PRS are one-person households (34%), followed by couples with no children (22%) and couples with dependent children (19%).

That said, the private rented sector has a significantly lower proportion of one-person households than the social rented sector (43%).

How much of their income do private renters spend on rent?

Private renters spend 33% of their income on rent (41% in London), compared to 27% in social housing. This has increased from 31% for private renters on last year. For those owner occupiers with a mortgage, they spend 22% of their income on their mortgage.

How many private renters find it difficult to pay rent?

26% of private renters said they found it difficult paying rent. Conversely, 74% say it’s easy to pay rent. The number of those finding paying the rent difficult has increased by 1%, although of course this survey was taken in 2021-22, and before the large increase in inflation in 2023.

Households in London are more likely to find it difficult to pay rent: 36% compared to 23% in the rest of England, and 9% in the North East. Almost half (46%) of receiving housing support had difficulty paying rent, along with 39% of renters in part time work and 32% of renters who had children.

How long do private renters stay in a property on average in England?

The average time that private renters stay in a rented property is 4.4 years, compared to 4.2 years last year. This accords with anecdotal reports that private renters are moving less frequently. Nearly one third of private renters have been renting for more than a decade.

By contrast, social renters stay an average of 12.7 and owner occupiers live in their properties for an average of 17.6 years.

How many private renters were in arrears in 2021-22?

Under one in ten (7%) of private renters were either currently in arrears (3%) or had been in arrears in the last year (4%). Those private renters receiving housing support were more likely to be in arrears than those who don’t (5% vs 2%).

Why do tenancies end in England?

reasons why tenancies end as per English Housing Survey

As the figures from the English Housing Survey above show, the overwhelming majority of private tenancies end because the renters want to move to move.

What the survey terms a “small minority” say they were say they were evicted or asked to leave by their landlord.

How long is the average initial tenancy term in England?

The most popular length of the initial fixed term period of a tenancy in England is 12 months. Here are the stats:

  • 28% of initial tenancy fixed term periods are for 6 months.
  • 60% are for 12 months.
  • 2% are for 18 months.

Socio-demographic profile renters and owner occupiers

The English Private Housing Survey uses the Acorn methodology to segment renters and owner ocuupiers into five categories. Click here to find out more information on Acorn, which is also used by the UK House Price Index.

As you’ll see from the graphic below, private renters are spread roughly evenly between rising prosperity, comfortable communities, financially stretched and urban adversity. There are more private renters in the “rising prosperity” category than owner occupiers.

The most common socio-economic group among the PRS r is lower managerial and professional occupations (26%). The least frequent socio-economic groups in the PRS were small employers and own account workers (11%), routine occupations (11%) and lower supervisory and technical occupations (6%).

segmentation of renters using the ACORN methodology in the English Housing Survey

What does the English Housing Survey tell us about the quality of housing in the PRS?

How many properties in the PRS fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard?

According to the English Housing Survey, and almost a quarter (23%) of occupied private rented properties, amounting to nearly 1 million properties, are estimated to fail the Decent Homes Standard. This is more than those in the social rented sector (10%). The worst region is Yorkshire and The Humber at 37.7%, followed by the North West (33.1%).

For a property to be considered “decent” under the Decent Homes Standard it must:

  • Not have a Category 1 HHSRS hazard (see below)
  • be in a reasonable state of repair
  • have reasonably modern facilities and services
  • provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort

Click here for my blog post on landlord’s legal obligations regarding repairs, maintenance and the Decent Homes Standard.

Map of England showing the percentage of private rented properties that do not meet decent homes standard in England by region in the English Housing survey

How many houses in the Private Rented Sector are “unsafe”?

The English Housing Survey estimates that 14% of properties in the PRS in England are “unsafe”, which means they contain a Category 1 HHSRS Hazard.

Households who receive housing support are more likely to live in a home with a Category 1 hazard (19%) compared to those who are not in receipt (12%).

Here is a straightforward explanation of HHSRS Hazards.

percentage of unsafe properties in the private rented sector in the English Housing Survey

How many properties in the PRS have damp?

Properties in the PRS are more likely to have damp than all other tenures. Almost 11% of private rented homes have dampness compared to 4% of social rented homes and 2% of owner occupied homes.

When compared to social housing, the private rented sector have a higher prevalence of properties with damp in all regions except the North East, North West and London.

A property is considered to have damp or a problem with damp if the surveyor records damp which is significant enough to be taken into consideration when making their HHSRS assessments. This means that minor damp problems are not included in the data.

What are the latest average EPC ratings in the PRS?

The English Housing Survey for 2021-22 says that in 2021, 44% of the properties in the PRS had an EPC rating A to C, and 42% were in Band D. The remaining 14% have an EPC rating of E to G.

From a regional perspective, London had the highest proportion (61%) of private rented homes rated A to C than all other regions. This is probably due to the the higher proportion of flats in the capital.

Final thoughts

The English Housing Survey paints a mixed picture of the private rented sector, with an alarming number of properties still containing Category 1 Hazards.

Tougher enforcement of existing laws against rogue landlords is needed, as is clarity on the Decent Homes Standard, which was promised in the Renters Reform Bill press release, but which has so far been absent in the draft Bill.

You may also find useful

What does the English Housing Survey published July 2023 tell us about the Private Rented Sector?

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