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 rent levels
Chart 1: A comparison of mean and median rents in England
This chart presents data from the English Housing Survey. It compares mean and median rents in the PRS against rents in the social housing sector. These rents include rents in existing as well as new tenancies. The data provides an alternative perspective on rent increases to the data published on new tenancies which attracts a higher level of media attention.
(Please note this chart was revised in July 2023)
Chart 2: Weekly (median) rent levels across the UK, 2019-20 - 2021-22
The above shows the median weekly rent levels in the PRS for the most recent three years as collected in the DWP-backed Family Resources Survey. Note that the data on rental growth does present a different outlook on the PRS than that presented in the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices.
FRS data collection is all year round from April to March. Small sample sizes may be an influence on recent survey results - the pandemic may also have altered the composition of the sample. Both these influences - and others - are acknowledged here.
Note that for the most recent year’s study, government restrictions introduced in response to the pandemic were significantly eased over the data collection period. This was also a period of rapid change in the labour and employment market as well as personal circumstance.
The survey mode for the most recent year, as well as the previous year was telephone-led, as opposed to the established face-to-face mode of interviews used in years prior to 2020 to 2021. The sample size was higher this year than in the previous year's study, but still down on what would be considered usual.
To try and balance out these disparities, data across three years has been presented.
The benefit of the FRS is through the analysis of absolute rent levels, and the easy-to-read comparative change across different parts of the UK. Short and medium-term price growth in the PRS remains best monitored through the IPHRP index.
The table below presents longer term analysis from the FRS - the above note on methodology is relevant here too however:
Chart 3: Longer term changes in median rent across the UK (Source: FRS)
The chart above shows that long term rental increases across the entire PRS are modest. This data is (i) median rents and (ii) based on survey data from tenants, many of whom do not face annual rent increases.
- In England median rents over the period since 2011/12 have grown by just under 2% per year.
- In Scotland & Wales annual rent increases are barely above zero - these are money rents and so not adjusted for inflation.
- In N. Ireland annual rental growth appears more strong but the data in N. Ireland is more subject to small-sample errors.
Nevertheless, across the UK, the reality is that for many landlords, long term financial returns as measured by rental growth over the last ten years have barely been equal to that of other saving/investment options.
Chart 4: A comparison of rental growth measures
This chart makes a comparison between rental growth in the Family Resources Survey (FRS) - produced annually - and the updated-monthly Index of Private Housing Rental Prices (IPHRP). The starting base is 2015 - when the ONS monthly index for all Devolved Administrations is dated from. As the FRS data collection period is April-March each year, the IPHRP analysis uses the index data from April 2015 to March 2022. The comparison between £-based rents and index numbers may have limitations but it does enable some kind of triangulation around rent levels across the entire PRS.
Using the same methodology, the CPI grew by an average of 2.7%pa over the same period
On a UK-basis, the data is broadly similar between the two data sources. In Wales and N. Ireland there is a much greater difference between the two - again a reflection of smaller samples.
What the analysis highlights though is that:
- Over the long term, we now have multiple sources confirming the reality of rent increases being not as steep as is often made out.
- Rents have not been keeping pace with the wider cost of living, as measured by inflation.