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 (2000 - 2020/21)

Chart 2: English Housing Survey: No of households and PRS size

The two graphs above show that both the number of households in the PRS, and the proportion of all households which in the PRS has fallen compared to the previous 12 months.

In 2016/17, just under 4.7m households were in the Private Rented Sector - over one-in-five households (20.3%). 

The number (with one exception) and the proportion in the PRS has fallen steadily since then. The PRS now has 4.4m households - which is still more than double the number at the turn of the century (2000: 2m households). This equates to 18.5% of all households, the lowest proportion since 2012/13.  

There are now almost 260,000 fewer households in the PRS than at the 2016/17 peak. 


Note the English Housing Survey is a different data set to the Family Resources Survey - which covers the entire UK - so the pattern is slightly different. 

Charts 3-6: Households in the PRS (Source: Family Resources Survey (FRS), 2021)

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 2020/21, the proportion of households in the PRS across the UK had fallen compared to the previous year, from 19% to 18%. This figure has been as high as 20%. None of the individual countries which make up the UK showed a rise in the PRS in 2020/21. 
  • In England the proportion of households in the PRS grew from 11% in 1998/99 to 19% in 2020/21. This is however down from a peak of 21% in 2016/17. 
  • In Wales the fall in households in the PRS has been from 19% in 2019/20 to 17% in 2020/21.
  • In Scotland, the proportion of households in the PRS has consistently been below the UK average. In 1998/99, the proportion of households in the PRS was just 7%. So whilst still low, the PRS in Scotland has risen significantly this century.
  • In N. Ireland, the fall in the proportion of PRS households - from 19% to 13% in 2020/21 appears dramatic. DWP, who produce the data,indicate small sample sizes are a feature of the N. Ireland sample. The data must meet a reliability threshold however, so this would be only part of the story. 

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