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 (England) - number and proportion of all households

The most recent English Housing Survey (EHS) shows a slight fall in both the number of households in the PRS and the proportion of households in England made up of private renters.

Just short of 4.6m households were in the PRS in 2022/23 – a small reduction (around one third of one percentage point) from the previous year. There is a correspondingly small reduction in the proportion of total households in the PRS – 18.8%. 2016/17 saw the total percentage rise above 20% (20.3% of all households were in the PRS), but in the six years since then the percentage has hovered between 18.5% and 19.5%.

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 - 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 challenge of Covid-19 does however mean there should be caution attached to the numbers as a single data series.

Whilst the number of households in the PRS has fallen, the number of dwellings reported in the survey has risen. Most of that increase is the reinclusion of vacant properties following changes to the data collection methodology during Covid. There are also 38,000 more occupied housing units in the PRS in 2022 than in the previous year.

There are around 3.5% more dwellings in the PRS in 2022 than (pre-Covid) 2019, which is around the same as the growth in the number of households in a similar period (household data is published in financial years).

Charts 3-6: Households in the PRS (Source: Family Resources Survey (FRS), various editions)

Households in the PRS (England) - proportion of all households
Households in the PRS (Wales) - proportion of all households
Households in the PRS (Scotland) - proportion of all households
Households in the PRS (Nth Ireland) - proportion of all households

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. Back in 1998/99 the Family Resources Survey showed that the proportion of households in the PRS was just 10% for Great Britain (there was then no figure for Northern Ireland). 

  • In 2022/23, the Family Resources Survey estimate the proportion of PRS households across the UK remained unchanged from the previous year - 19% of all households being privately rented. 
  • 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%. 

England & Wales - which is where the NRLA is focused - the poportion of households in the PRS fell: 

  • In England, the proportion of households in the PRS fell from 20% to 19% in 2022/23. 
  • Wales experienced a sharper fall: from 18% in 2021/22 to 14%, the lowest level since 2016/17.
    • Note that Wales has seen a turbulent PRS policy environment, and some of this reduction may be part-explained by policy decisions and a changing policy framework.

Scotland and Northern Ireland were the only two countries in which the proportion of households in the PRS grew over the period of the most recent publication.

  • In Northern Ireland, after a sharp decline from 19% in 2019/20 to 13% in 2020/21, the PRS proportion has risen in the last two surveys to now stand at 18%, showing a 1% increase from the previous year.  
  • Scotland's PRS share of household tenure has consistently been below the UK average. After falling to 14% in 2021/22 - the lowest level since 2010/11 – in this survey it has reportedly grown to 16%. 

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