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Renting costs put home ownership out of reach for private tenants

7 March 2017

Private tenants are struggling to get a foot on the housing ladder because of the costs that come with renting, Citizens Advice can reveal.

A new report from the charity finds that just under three quarters (74%) of private tenants say the combined costs of rent, agency fees and moving make buying a home harder.

The findings from ‘A State of Disrepair’ report hold true across the income scale, with more than three quarters (78%) of people from households earning £50,000 - the top 25% of household earners - reporting that renting costs make buying a home harder.

A first-time buyer in the UK will need an average deposit of over £30,000, while the annual cost of renting a home outside of London is over £7,600 and over £15,000 in the capital.

A YouGov survey of over 2,000 private renters in England shows how letting agent fees also contribute to the overall cost of renting.

Of households earning £50,000 or more, two thirds (69%) paid fees to their current letting agent with some paying more than £1000:

  • 1 in 5 (20%) have to spend between £250 and £499

  • 1 in 5 (19%) pay between £500 and £999

  • Nearly 1 in 10 (9%) are spending £1000 or more

Citizens Advice estimates that private tenants in England are spending in excess of £13 million on letting agent fees each month and welcomes the government’s plan to ban them - confirmed earlier this month in the housing white paper.

But while the government has moved to curb some of the costs in the private rented sector, it now needs to drive up the quality of homes.  

Despite renting costs draining the amount that households can save, many still aren’t guaranteed a decent home to live in.

Half of renters (51%) with a household income of £50,000 or more have experienced damp or mould in their current home, while a fifth (20%) have had a rodent or other animal infestation. For some families, the problem is there when they move in.

Citizens Advice wants the government to improve the standard of homes in the private rented sector by taking a tougher line with landlords and bolster protections for tenants.

The report recommends introducing maximum timescales for landlords and letting agents to carry out repairs and banning those who repeatedly fail to do so from letting out properties in the future.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Owning a home is a pipedream for many due to the cost of renting privately.

“Households can find their efforts to save for a home of their own are undercut by the costs of renting. Now that people are staying in the private rented sector for longer the government’s commitment to ban letting agents fees could help them to save thousands of pounds towards a deposit.

“The government also needs to look at how it can do more to help private tenants at the mercy of landlords and letting agents who are slow to carry out repairs, or rent out homes that fail to meet basic standards.”

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Notes to editors

  1. ONS, Household disposable income and inequality in the UK: financial year ending 2016
  2. Citizens Advice commissioned YouGov to undertake an online survey of 2001 adults living in England between 2nd and 12th December, 2016.
  3. Halifax , July 2016
  4. English Housing Survey, 2014/15
  5. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  6. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  7. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  8. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  9. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  10. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.