The Data Observatory

The NRLA Data Observatory is a collection of official and other well-established data sources which when combined, provide a narrative of the Private Rented Sector (PRS).  The NRLA tracks approximately 45 key data sets which are updated monthly, quarterly and annually. A selection of these appear in these pages.

Our Deep Insight blog provides a regular extension of the analysis which appears here, as well as those datasets which are not published in the Data Observatory section of this website.

The blog pages also features blog posts from other organisations and academics to provide insight on the PRS. Here you can also find more in-depth summaries of our regular reports and surveys.

PRS households

Chart 1: PRS households in England

Households in the PRS - number and proportion of all households

The number of households in the PRS (England-only) has risen according to the most recent English Housing Survey (EHS). The data shows an increase of over 170,000. This is the largest annual jump since that between 2014/15 & 2015/16. The number of hosueholds in the PRS - 4,611,000 - is the second largest recorded.

The proportion of households in the PRS also rose following a decline for the previous four housing surveys. It now stands at 19.1% of households in England being in the PRS. As an aside, the PRS has now been the tenure of at least 18% of households for the last ten consecutive years.   

Chart 2: Dwellings in the PRS

Dwellings in the PRS (English Housing Survey)

The chart above shows the trend in the number of dwellings - both occupied and unoccupied - which are in the PRS. Note that during Covid the data collection methodology changed. It was not possible to make an estimate of vacant property. How the change in data collection methodology has affected (distorted) the dwellings and household statistics remains to be seen. The English Housing Survey is commissioned by DLUHC but undertaken independently to the highest standards. The unique challenges of Covid-19 does however mean there should be caution attached to the numbers.

Note the difference between "dwellings" and "households" largely reflects those households resident in HMOs. The increase in the number of dwellings appears to be less than the increasing number of households in the PRS. The vacant stock figures - missing for this year's survey - may explain how the sector has absorbed the increasing demand for PRS property. Reported increases in new rents is another piece of evidence of supply-side tightening. 

Chart 3: Properties in the PRS

This chart shows the rapid growth in properties (occupied and vacant are aggregated here) in England's PRS up to 2016. The data is taken from the English Housing Survey. After 2016, there has been a steady reduction in the supply of private rented housing units. In 2020 this reduction became much more marked.

This sudden reduction in PRS properties could be the change in the data collection methodology necessitated through Covid-19. Or it could be the start of the flight from the PRS which has been anticipated as a result of government policy and landlord expectations (this data predates increases in interest rates and inflation). It is much more likely however to be a combination of the two. 


Charts 4-7: Households in the PRS (Source: Family Resources Survey (FRS), various editions)

These charts show the recent patterns of PRS tenure across each of the four Home Nations in comparison to the United Kingdom as a whole. 

  • The 1998/99 Family Resources Survey showed that the proportion of households in the PRS was 10% for Great Britain (there was then no figure for Northern Ireland). 
  • In 2021/22, the proportion of households in the PRS across the UK had risen slightly compared to the previous year, from 18% to 19%. 
  • Whilst this proportion has been as high as 20% (2015/16 & 2016/17) for the last five FRS surveys, the figure has fluctuated between 19% and 18% (2020/21). 
  • In England, Wales and N. Ireland the proportion of households in the PRS grew. 
  • In Scotland – where the proportion of households in the PRS has consistently been below the UK average – the proportion has fallen to 14% - the lowest level since 2010/2011. 
  • In last year’s analysis of the data, the unusual fall in the N. Ireland figure was picked out. This year there has been a sudden rise – from 13% last year to 17% of all households being tenured in the PRS. The caution attached to the previous year’s figure at the time – based on small sample sizes and reliability thresholds – appears to be confirmed by this year’s survey. 

Note that each nation collects its own data on housing volumes. This makes difficult to make long term comparisons across the Union.