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Are private tenancies more stable than social housing?

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Received wisdom has it that privately rented accommodation is overpriced, poor value and – crucially – an unstable option, while social housing is commended as affordable and secure.

But new data from the Ministry of Justice reveals that the opposite just might be true: over half of repossessions in the first three months of 2016 were in social housing (57 per cent), while a mere 15 per cent of claims took place in privately rented homes.

The remaining 28 per cent were accelerated possessions – a mixture of social and private claims.

The majority of claims which results in county court repossessions are from social housing (44 per cent), with 42 per cent accelerated and 14 per cent private.

The proportion of repossessions in social housing has fallen – from 83 per cent in 1999, to 62 per cent last year – while private repossessions only increased marginally (from 9 per cent to 13 per cent in the same period) a clear reflection of how the housing landscape has transformed.

The PRS (private rented sector) has now overtaken social housing and accounts for 19 per cent of households – a massive 5 million – against social housing’s 17 per cent. 

With more people renting than ever before, the English Housing Survey found that 78 per cent of tenants reported their last tenancy ended because they wanted to move.

Only 1 per cent of tenants said their landlord terminated their last tenancy – with half (51 per cent) saying their tenancy continued after the end of the fixed term and a third (33 per cent) reporting their landlord renewed their tenancy once it had ended, according to figures from the National Landlords Association.

The data suggests that private renting is nowhere near as insecure as generally thought, and adds weight to the argument that long-term tenancies benefit landlord and tenant alike.

But, as the PRS continues to expand, only time will tell whether private repossessions will remain low as more households become unable to rely on social housing and housing benefit shrinks.

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