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

Table 1: Weekly (median) rent levels across the UK - 2019-20 and 2020-21

The above shows the median weekly rent levels in the PRS for the most recent two years. This data is published annually by the DWP in the annual Family Resources Survey. The data on rental growth does differ from that presented in the more comprehensive Index of Private Housing Rental Prices

It highlights that the last twelve months have been a period when the reality of rent change has been somewhat at odds with the perception:

  • Overall across the UK, average (median) rent grew by £7 per week, or 4.9% between 2019-20 and 2020-21
  • Median rents grew in England by an average of £5 per week.
  • In Wales median rents grew by £12 per week, but from a base (£109pw) which is much lower.

Small sample sizes may be an influence on the survey results - the pandemic may also have altered the composition of the sample. Both these influences - and others are acknowledged here: Note that this edition of the FRS has half the number of responses as it would normally collect, and as the background documentation states "users should expect the standard errors around this year’s FRS estimates to be 40% larger than in a typical FRS year."   

Using the ONS data as the basis of calculation, private sector rents across the UK grew 1.1%, and in Wales 1.5% between April 2020 and March 2021. 

The benefits of the FRS is through the analysis of absolute rent levels, and the easy-to-read comparative change across different parts of the UK. Price growth in the PRS over time remains best monitored through the IPHRP.    

Table 2: Longer term changes in median rent across the UK (Source: FRS)

The chart above shows that long term rental increases are modest - and this time, the data here is consistent with the more detailed IPHRP index.

  • In England median rents over the last ten years have increased by just over 2%pa.
  • Even this modest growth is way ahead of that experienced in Wales and Scotland (where long term rents have fallen)
  • In Wales long term rental growth has been modest - but the most recent year has seen a sudden jump in the data presented by the FRS. This differs from the data the NRLA regularly analysis elsewhere in this blog. The possibly reinforces the impact of the pandemic on data collection e.g. small sample sizes among other factors

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.