Rental prices in the private rented sector (PRS) rose by an average of 2.6% over the year to March 2016, unchanged when compared with the previous month, the latest data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveal.
The ONS’ private housing rental index shows that rental prices increased by 2.8% in England, 0.6% in Scotland and 0.2% in Wales.
Rental price growth was recorded across the whole of England in the 12 months to March 2016, led by gains in London where rents are up 3.7%, reflecting the fact that annual price growth has been stronger in London than the rest of England for the past five and a half years.
Growth in the capital was followed by the East of England at 3% and the South East at 2.9%, both unchanged over the corresponding period.
But there is a classic north-south divide. In the North East, the average tenant is only paying 0.8% more in rent compared with a year ago – the lowest annual rental price rise recorded in England. Rental prices in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber also rose at below the English average at 1.1% and 1.2% respectively over the same period.
The data from the ONS supports the latest HomeLet index which also shows that rents are continuing to rise in many parts of the UK.
The data from HomeLet reveal that overall the average rent in the UK, excluding Greater London, is now £755 per month.
“We’ve continued to see increases in rents on new tenancies in almost every part of the UK during the first quarter, as the private rental market has responded to the pressures of an imbalance between demand and supply,” said Martin Totty, Barbon Insurance Group’s chief executive officer.
With experts at accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasting that by 2025, 7.2 million households will be living in rental accommodation, compared with 5.4 million today and just 2.3 million in 2001, there does not appear to be an end in sight for rising rents, which is why John Bibby, a policy officer at housing charity Shelter, is now calling for a rental system that is made “fit for purpose”.
“England has regulations in place, but they are incredibly weak and ineffective,” he said. “It’s easy for landlords to impose excessive rent increases, with tenants able to choose between paying up or moving out.”
“Private renting is no longer just a stepping stone for young adults – it’s where a quarter of families in England have to live,” he added.