Is rent about to hit the affordability ceiling?

Is rent about to hit the affordability ceiling?
The private rented sector is now having to cope with a series of disruptive elements, just at a time of great economic uncertainty

The latest data from HomeLet has revealed that rents in the UK rose on average 1.7% in December – less than half the 3.8% rate of rental price inflation in December 2015.

According to the report, landlords agreeing new tenancies during December achieved more modest increases in rent than in previous months, with the annual rate of rental inflation falling from 2.9% in November.

Across the UK as a whole, the average rent for a new tenancy commencing in December was £892 per month, compared to £877 in December 2015. In Greater London, rents rose from £1,478 to £1,508 over the same period, a smaller percentage increase but still a higher rental value.

HomeLet’s Rental Index data for 2016 reveals a year of two halves: during the first six months of the year, annual rental price inflation was consistently 4% or higher, peaking at 4.7% in June. In contrast, the second half of the year saw rental price growth steadily reducing to the lowest rate of increase in the final month of year.

In some areas of the country the slowdown over the year was even more marked. Rents in Greater London were 2% higher in December compared with 6.8% at the mid-year point.

Rental price inflation is still running ahead of general inflation as measured by the consumer price index, but the slowdown seen during the second half of 2016 raises questions as to the extent to which landlords will be able to raise rents further during 2017. While some property analysts have predicted strong rental price appreciation in the years ahead, particularly relative to house price growth, landlords, in recent months, looked for much more modest increases. This could prove significant during 2017, with impending tax changes beginning in April potentially reducing the returns available from buy-to-let property investment.


While it has been suggested landlords impacted by the reduction in mortgage interest tax relief will seek to recoup this additional cost from tenants, this may not be feasible if lower rental price inflation persists. Further cost pressures to come include the potential impact of November’s announcement of a ban on letting agents’ fees, which could see landlords asked to meet such expenses in connection with renting their property to new tenants.

Across the UK as a whole, rent accounted for an average of 28.0% of tenants’ household income before tax, down slightly on last December’s figure of 28.4%. In London, the equivalent figures are 31.0% and 31.2%.

Martin Totty, HomeLet’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “While demand for rental property remains strong, landlords always have to be mindful of tenants’ ability to pay higher prices. The data recorded by the HomeLet Rental Index during the second half of last year suggests we have now begun to approach an affordability ceiling, particularly in areas of the country where rental price inflation was previously highest.

While the industry has speculated that landlords will increase rents to mitigate the impact of factors such as the impending reductions in mortgage interest tax relief, this may prove problematic given the pricing trends we’re currently seeing in the market and the potential for higher inflation and a squeeze on real earnings in 2017.

The private rented sector is now having to cope with a series of disruptive elements, just at a time of great economic uncertainty, and amid a continuing systematic imbalance between supply and demand for residential property. The assumption that landlords have sufficient means to bear higher costs will soon be tested. Tenants must hope they do.”

The regional picture for 2016

Northern Ireland, where rents were 6.4% higher in December than in the same month of 2015, saw the strongest rental price inflation of any region in the UK last year, followed by the North-East of England (4.9%) and Wales (3.9%). Just one region saw a fall in rents over the same period, with the East Midlands recording a drop of 0.4%.

Regions that were more likely to show higher rental increases during the first half of the year saw a more marked pull-back in the second six months. This was led by London, but the South-East saw rental price inflation fall from 4% in June to just 1.7% in December, while the East of England dropped from 5.5% to 2.5%.

Martin concluded: “The fact that the areas of the country where rental price inflation was previously highest were the areas in which rent increases dropped back most significantly in the second half of last year adds weight to the idea that an affordability ceiling is now becoming an issue. Landlords and letting agents are clearly being cautious.”

Join our mailing list:

Leave a comment



Latest Comments

Tony Gimple
Tony Gimple 09 Dec 2017

Linking professionalism to limited company borrowing is a flawed concept. Despite S24 etc., limited companies are the most tax inefficient way of running a property business and leave borrowers seriously...

view article
Evelyn Attwood
Evelyn Attwood 01 Dec 2017

It's normal. If you plan to buy a house in one of the most beautiful spots in the country you should pay a high price.

view article
Evelyn Attwood
Evelyn Attwood 01 Dec 2017

I think that the situation will be the same at December.

view article
Scott Garnet
Scott Garnet 06 Nov 2017

If you have a patio or a porch it is important to make sure that any connecting doors are secured. Good advice for sliding glass doors is replacing the panels with storm resistant glass and getting heavier...

view article
richardrawlings
richardrawlings 01 Nov 2017

What has not been mentioned here is the effect of not only higher interest payments, but also that these payments are less likely to be offsettable as a business cost due to the scaling back of mortgage...

view article
Kelvin Lloyd
Kelvin Lloyd 09 Oct 2017

IT is up, to the Planners. If they will only give permission for bungalows on certain (suitable) sites, they will be built.

view article
maggie swift
maggie swift 09 Oct 2017

It's just the beginning of the shocking rise.

view article
maggie swift
maggie swift 09 Oct 2017

I have recently read that the bungalows can provide social housing for elderly residents in London.

view article
zoe glover
zoe glover 05 Oct 2017

Update! Worst company I have ever dealt with. Undervalued a Cambridge property by over 100k, wont take on any evidence of valuation including a RICS valuation done 3 years ago for the very same value...

view article
Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards 27 Sep 2017

Its nonsense articles such as this that make it harder to get clients to realise just how difficult the market is out there. When you see Rightmove and there are more 'price reduced' then 'new' most days...

view article
Tom Allen
Tom Allen 20 Sep 2017

Absolutely agree with you!

view article
RyanGeo
RyanGeo 18 Sep 2017

A sharp correction would be a less dramatic expression to use. That is already underway in certain sectors in Reading where I practice as Chartered Surveyor

view article

Related stories

More articles from Landlords