Proportion of UK renters has doubled in 20 years – and here’s why

Proportion of UK renters has doubled in 20 years – and here’s why

The latest English Housing Survey has just been released analysing the UK’s private rented sector, and the report has uncovered some interesting statistics about today’s tenants.

A fifth of the UK population now lives in privately rented accommodation, the English Housing Survey has revealed in its latest report for 2016/2017, accounting for 4.7 million households. This figure has doubled from the 10% of people living in the PRS back in 1996/1997, and is a huge leap over the past decade from 12% in 2006/2007.

With this changing trend to rent rather than buy, many are pinning the blame on the flailing housing market and out of reach house prices forcing people to remain in rented accommodation as they are unable to buy a home.

Attitudes towards renting have shifted

However, the survey actually revealed that an overwhelming majority (84%) of people are actually satisfied with their accommodation, indicating that rather than being obliged to rent, it is a positive choice made by hundreds of thousands of people in the sector today.

Furthermore, almost three quarters (72%) of private renters were satisfied with their landlords in terms of how they carried out repairs or maintenance, compared to just 66% of satisfied social renters, and over two thirds (68%) were very or fairly satisfied with their current tenure.

Rental properties have improved

Another key finding is that the energy efficiency and quality of the PRS housing stock has vastly improved over the past 10 years, with the proportion of “non-decent” homes (those that did not meet the Decent Homes Standard) declining from 47% in 2006 to just 27% in 2016. This situation is set to see further improvement as more regulatory changes come into effect, as well as the burgeoning build-to-rent sector adding even higher levels of living standards and tenant satisfaction.

The number of damp properties has also depleted significantly since the last survey was compiled, while the proportion of homes in states of disrepair has also improved greatly, another sign that the sector’s improvements could be a key reason why renting is no longer seen as a second-class choice.

How the data can help landlords and buy-to-let investors

In terms of who the market now serves, the biggest change was seen in the proportion of those aged 35 to 44 living in privately rented homes. While in 1996/1997, just 16% of this age group were private tenants, the latest results show this has risen to almost a quarter (24%).

The types of households in the sector have also shifted over the years, with families with dependent children now accounting for 24% compared to 15% 20 years ago. The biggest proportion of households (27%) are made up of one person, while couples with no children account for 21% of private rented properties.

For developers and property investors, as well as buy-to-let landlords assessing their target tenant, this data could crucial for keeping up with the trends in the evolving PRS market.

David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, commented: “Whilst we should never be complacent, these results confound the myths that some have peddled about the private rented sector.

“It shows once again that the vast majority of private sector landlords do a good job and look after their properties and tenants properly.”

Self-certified Sophisticated Investor

Please read

I declare that I am a self-certified sophisticated investor for the purposes of the restriction on promotion of non-mainstream pooled investments. I understand that this means:

I am a self-certified sophisticated investor because at least one of the following applies:

I accept that the investments to which the promotions will relate may expose me to a significant risk of losing all of the money or other property invested. I am aware that it is open to me seek advice from someone who specialises in advising on non-mainstream pooled investments.

High Net Worth Investor

Please read

I make this statement so that I can receive promotional communications which are exempt from the restriction on promotion of non-mainstream pooled investments. The exemption relates to certified high net worth investors and I declare that I qualify as such because at least one of the following applies to me:


Sign up for first access to new developments and exclusive property investment opportunities.

We send limited and targeted emails on new launches and exclusive deals which best fit your areas. We are trusted by over 30,000 active buyers as their source for new stock.

  • New property developments
  • Professional market reports
  • Property deal alerts
  • Development updates
Manchester property investment


Receive trending news straight to your inbox and stay up to date on all of the property market trends and advice.

Established since 2005 we are a leading voice of authority and commentary on the UK property market. Our news is trusted by Apple News & Google News.

  • UK housing market
  • Mortgage & money
  • Buy-to-let landlords
  • Guides & advice

Talk to us

Speak to our UK property experts today:


+44 (0) 333 123 0320

Open from 9am-6pm GMT


+852 6699 9008

Open from 9am-6pm HKT