Shorter Void Periods But Rents Dip In BTL Sector

There was a modest decrease in void rates in February, although rents experienced a dip in all but three regions in the UK, according to the latest Goodlord Rental Index.

Void rates

In comparison with January, void rates in February decreased from 20 days to a UK average of 19 days. Greater London saw the steepest fall, recording a drop from 15 to 10 days. Elsewhere in the UK, the North West, South West, South East and the West Midlands all saw a decrease in void averages.

It was a different story for the East Midlands, though. There, the numbers spiked in February, taking the average to 27 days, despite a welcome fall in January to 19 days. The North East also experienced a slight rise, increasing from 22 to 24 days.

Average rents

February proved to be a typically slow month for rent rises. The decline in most regions was in the order of 1-2%, with the average cost of rent falling from £875 to £864 per month.

Nonetheless, three regions manage to defy the trend. The South East and the West Midlands witnessed a 1% increase in average rental costs, while prices in the South West rose by 2%.

Prices in Greater London fell by 2%, whereas the East Midlands and the North East saw costs fall by 1% on average. The greatest change occurred in the North West, with average rental costs falling by 4%, from £715 in January to £687 in February.

Renter demographics

While the average renter across the UK now earns £24,934, an increase on January’s average, London renters top the tables, earning £37,617 on average. Those earning the lowest salaries can be found in the North East, where take-home pay averages £19,383.

Renters are now also slightly older, with a median age of 34 years. The South West comes top in having the oldest renters at 35 years old, whereas the youngest renters, at 32 years, are located in the North West.

Tom Mundy, COO of Goodlord, commented that the figures for this period are in line with their expectations, as February is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year for lettings.

He said that the present is a golden opportunity for lettings agents to review the systems they have in place to ensure that they are well prepared not only for an increase in the volume of enquiries as summer approaches, but also for the anticipated changes in legislation, such as the new electrical safety standards regulations that will increase administration.

Rent controls a disaster

Meanwhile, plans to introduce new rent controls in London have been branded a “disaster”, according to the Residential Landlord Association (RLA). London Mayor Sadiq Khan believes the measures would prevent those living in the capital’s private rented sector (PRS) from being priced out of the market due to costs rising to increasingly unaffordable levels.

Mr Khan has put the plan at the forefront of his campaign to be re-elected Mayor in May. However, the RLA is concerned that the plans would adversely affect the PRS when demand already exceeds supply.

The organisation claims that rent controls would act as a negative shock to the PRS, citing research by Knight Frank, which showed that there were as many as 6.1 prospective tenants for each rental listing in 2019, a spike from 4.7 per listing in 2018.

John Stewart, policy manager at the RLA, lambasted the proposals saying, as history and experience have shown elsewhere, they would simply drive landlords out of the market, thereby aggravating an already serious shortage of available homes.

“Instead of presenting naive and superficially attractive proposals in order to win votes,” he said, “the Mayor should concentrate on increasing the supply of available housing using the powers he already has. Only then will he make any noticeable impact on improving the affordability of housing across the capital.”

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