Rental rate freeze could sink UK property market

Germany’s rent controls place strong restrictions on in-tenancy rent increases, while the ‘rent brake’ introduced a couple of year ago makes it harder for landlords to charge higher rents when re-letting a property. But would a similar system work as far as the UK’s rent control system is concerned?

Last week the German finance minister Olaf Scholz voiced his support of a controversial five-year rent freeze to tackle the increasing cost of living in the city.

The aim, according to Scholz, is to ensure that Berlin does not ‘end up like London’.

In the last five years, London rents have increased from an average of £1,530 a month to £1,679 – an increase of 2.44% annually.Should this growth trend persist for a further five years, it would push the average rent in the capital to £1,894 a month.

However, the implementation of a five-year rental rate freeze would see London tenants save a total of £7,620 in rental costs, according to the research. Tenants in Newham stand to save the most, with rents increasing by 6.95% on average in the borough over the last five years, an increase of £329 in the monthly rent. If this continues, the average rental price could hit £1,977 a month in five years, but a freeze would see tenants save a notable £19,413 as a result.

A five-year rental rate freeze would also see a five-figure saving for tenants in Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, Redbridge, Kensington and Chelsea, the City of London, Havering, Lewisham, Southwark, Enfield and Ealing.

Oxford tenants would benefit with a rental freeze saving totalling £17,746 over the next five-years. The average rent in Oxford over the last five years has increased at an average of 7.3% a month, second only to Manchester at 8%, which could see Oxford’s rental costs hit £1,741 a month.

Bristol has also seen a sharp increase in rental prices, up 6.75% annually over the last five years. A similar growth trend would see the average monthly rent hit £1,489 however, a five-year rental freeze would save tenants a total of £14,294. Tenants in Manchester, Oxford, and Newcastle would also enjoy a five-figure saving.

Tom Gatzen, co-founder of ideal flatmate, said: “The figures suggest that should such a rental rate freeze be introduced in London and the wider country, the saving for tenants could be considerable. This saving could go some way towards a mortgage deposit and a foot on the ladder, while at the same time helping to alleviate some of the pressure on the rental sector.

“Any pro-tenant initiative can, of course, be viewed as a positive, but the mere suggestion of a rental rate freeze in Berlin seems to have sent the property market into meltdown. There is every chance that the same could happen here as a recent string of government changes to the buy-to-let sector have already diminished landlord confidence levels.

“This further dent on profitability could see more opt to invest elsewhere, however, the meteoric rise of the build-to-rent sector is providing a viable alternative to traditional stock supply and could therefore be the answer, stomaching a static rate of rental growth far better without any detriment to the tenant.”

COMMENT

The massive increase in the build to rent sector is beginning to filter through, but there needs to be more money made available for this. As it stands, there is not enough private funding of build to rent, but with amendments to tax rules, this could change rapidly. If legislation were introduces to allow people to plough their pension funds in to build to rent, but under strict return guidelines, to ensure affordability, this could not only give our ageing population a source of income, but it would also help to create more housing stock, thereby distributing demand and curbing spiralling rents. As build costs on a large scale are less than property on the open market, this would give the investors a fair return, without the need for excessive rent costs.

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