Late Rent Lowest Since 2008

  • Levels of late rent healthiest since 2008 – tenant arrears drop by £50 million in October
  • Comes despite new high for rents across England and Wales – at £758 per month
  • Rents rise 0.2% in month since September, up 1.9% from a year ago
  • Demand for tenancies remains strong, up 7.4% since October 2012

Tenant arrears are at their lowest since 2008, despite a new record for rents across England and Wales, according to the latest Buy-to-Let Index from LSL Property Services plc, which owns the UK’s largest lettings agent network, including national chains Your Move and Reeds Rains.

Average rents across England and Wales rose to £758 per month in October, after a monthly increase of 0.2% (or approximately £1) since September.

Annually, this leaves rents 1.9% higher than October 2012 – and at a new all-time high.

October also saw lettings activity accelerate on an annual basis. The number of new tenancies agreed across England and Wales increased by 7.4% compared to October 2012. This was despite a minor slowdown on a monthly basis, with 1.6% fewer new lettings than in September.

While as a whole rents across England and Wales rose on a monthly basis, seven out of ten regions saw rents fall between September and October.

The fastest monthly fall was in the West Midlands, with rents down 3.6% since September. This was followed by a fall of 2.4% in the East Midlands and a monthly drop in Yorkshire and the Humber of 1.7%.

However, the South East experienced rent rises of 2.4% between September and October, while rents in the South West rose 1.5%, and London saw rents rise on a monthly basis by 1.3%.

On an annual basis, London saw by far the sharpest rent rises – 4.9% higher than in October 2012. While this was followed by a 3.1% annual increase in the South East, Wales matched this figure, with Welsh rents also 3.1% higher than a year ago.

Meanwhile, rents in the East Midlands have fallen over the last year by 3.9% (or £30). This was followed by a 1.5% annual drop in the North East, while rents in the West Midlands are now 1.2% lower than in October 2012.

David Newnes, director of LSL Property Services, owners of estate agents Reeds Rains and Your Move, comments: “At a time when a seasonal slowdown would usually be expected rents are up again. The lettings market appears to be experiencing an extended Indian summer. Normally we can expect the rush of early autumn to fade into a late autumn hibernation. Even as the nights draw in, demand for homes to rent seems unabated, and still well ahead of a year ago. While buying a home is certainly getting easier, it’s the private rental market which is taking the strain for the majority of new households. With below inflation rises it is renting which is still relatively affordable in the face of struggling wage growth and rock bottom savings rates.”

Gross yields on a typical rental property remained steady at 5.3% in October, the same as in September. However, taking into account capital accumulation and void periods between tenants, total annual returns on an average rental property rose to 9.7% in October. This compares to 8.4% in September – with the increase due to accelerating house price rises. In absolute terms this represents an average return of £15,837, with rental income of £8,277 and capital gain of £7,560.

If rental property prices continue to rise at the same pace as over the last three months, the average buy-to-let investor in England and Wales could expect to make a total annual return of 14.5% over the next 12 months, equivalent to £24,921 per property.

David Newnes comments: “Rents are still rising, but the pace of change is stabilising – a sure sign of health for the lettings market. Even before the latest wave of price rises, plain rental yields are stable and set to grow. Moreover, with tenant finances improving, those yields on paper will be more easily realised. Yet on top of rental income, surging capital accumulation is delivering another source of confidence. As prices rise, not only does the importance of a relatively affordable rental market increase, but the incentives for landlords to expand their portfolios are growing too.”

Tenant finances saw a rapid improvement in October, with the total amount of late rent across England and Wales falling by £49 million since September – to £245 million. As a proportion, this represents 7.1% of all rent, down from 8.5% in September. On an annual basis tenant arrears have also improved, with the total amount of late rent down by £28 million since October 2012, and also down as a proportion on an annual basis, from 8.1% of all rent in arrears in October 2012.

October’s measure of tenant arrears – at 7.1% of all rent – represents the healthiest month for tenant finances since LSL began recording this data in November 2008. During that month five years ago, 13.1% of all rent in the UK was in arrears.

David Newnes concludes: “Until we can boost homebuilding to the tune of an extra 200,000 a year, rents will keep rising on an annual basis. Yet annual rises are still below inflation. Without a doubt households don’t have cash to burn at the moment. So the fact tenants have paid down late rent to such an extent is testament to the professionalism of landlords, the availability of advice for tenants, and the stability of the entire industry.

“The first rung of the housing ladder is still a big step up. Despite a healthier circulation of mortgages, even a 5% deposit is fast becoming a challenge for many would-be first-time buyers. For the foreseeable future a healthy private rented sector will be as critical for the UK economy as it is for those besieged every month with other household bills.”

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