Over half of first-time buyers need larger deposit due to pandemic
According to Aldermore’s first-time buyer index, which surveyed 2,015 prospective and 500 actual first-time buyers, the average deposit size is now £62,572, or around 19 per cent of a property’s value.
The report added that it would take first-time buyers who bought since the start of the pandemic an average of nearly five years to save up enough of a deposit.
It added that the process of buying had become increasingly complex over the past 18 months, with two in five survey respondents saying it took two or more offers to secure a home.
The report also noted that just under half, 49 per cent, were in the process of purchasing a property for it to fall through, which cost buyers an average £2,402 and one in nine spent £4,000 or more.
First-time buyer purchases were also delayed by around three months, with one in six saying it was delayed by over five months.
The cost factor
Costs from solicitor fees, mortgage fees, conveyancing fees and valuation, moving fees, rent paid to prior homes and estate agent fees on average set first-time buyers back by £4,486.
Extra barriers and costs meant that nearly half, 48 per cent, of those surveyed did not get home they wanted or compromise to get on the housing ladder.
Jon Cooper, head of mortgage distribution at Aldermore, said: “Becoming a homeowner is a wonderful step forward in a person’s life but our research shows the persistent effects of the pandemic are causing high levels of financial challenges in the journey.
“While costs and complicated processes may feel daunting, we’ve found first time buyers are glad they did it, with 78 per cent saying the stress was worth it to find a home. I would advise would-be buyers to plan carefully to ensure they are prepared for the range of costs involved and to seek a broker who can be a great help in cutting through the jargon and guiding you through the process.”
Lords urged to act to protect renters from sexual predators
The tenants campaign group is calling on the House of Lords to change the law to protect vulnerable renters.
A search on the Craigslist website uncovered landlords around England offering accommodation for free, but with other “payment” expected. These advertisements are open, explicit and for all to see, and some have used covid as a marketing technique.
Some use euphemistic language, including: “you can pay in other ways if you want”, “we can come to an arrangement”, “females only…terms apply”, “free for the right lad”, “text me for more details”.
The adverts are aimed at both men and women. One says, “I am gonna offer this room for only [£2 per week] because of Covid-19. I know how hard it could be for you guys to find a place specially if you are not working”. The advert goes on to say the room is “only for women” and “some favour in return expected”.
A report in January from Shelter suggested that as many as 30,000 women had been offered “sex for rent” between March and September 2020.
Offering accommodation in return for sexual favours is a criminal offence, but only one person has been charged for it, in February 2021. This is despite it being an issue that campaigners, journalists and politicians have raised for years.
It can be difficult for a victim of this practice to come forward as for a prosecution they need to be defined as a prostitute.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede has tabled amendments to the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is at Committee Stage in the House of Lords. The amendments are due to be considered on Monday 22 November.
The amendments would specifically criminalise sex for rent landlords and will implement financial penalties on websites and platforms who host sex for rent advertisements.
Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “These sexual predators are deliberately taking advantage of people’s desperation to find a home. The House of Lords has a huge opportunity to protect some of the country’s most vulnerable renters by specifically taking action against this horrific crime.
“No one should be forced by coercion or circumstance to exchange sexual acts for a roof over their head. That’s why these amendments have to go hand-in-hand with policies that provide more homes at affordable rents, an increase in social housing, and the provision of a welfare system where the benefit received actually covers the rent owed. Public policy is leaving too many people in dangerous situations.”
Demand for rental housing at five-year high
A survey of private landlords across England and Wales, conducted in partnership with research consultancy BVA/BDRC, found that 39 per cent confirmed the demand for homes to rent had increased in the second quarter of 2021 – an eight per cent increase on the first quarter of the year.
The data also reveals that demand has reached a five-year high, with demand only reaching a similar peak in in the first quarter of 2016. BVA/BDRC observe that demand has increased largely due to the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions and a more buoyant economic outlook.
The figures mask a trend which is seeing a two-tier rental market developing across particular regions in England and Wales.
In Yorkshire and the Humber, Wales, the South West and the South East more than 60 per cent of landlords said demand for homes to rent had increased. In stark contrast, just 15 per cent of landlords in central London said demand had increased in the second quarter of the year, compared with 53 per cent who said it had fallen.
This supports the trend which has seen growing numbers of tenants looking to leave London in the wake of the growth in homeworking. Official data shows that in the year to July 2021 the capital was the only region of the country to see rents fall in real terms.
Despite an overall increase in demand, the proportion of landlords intending to buy property has fallen from the four-year high of 19 per cent recorded in the first quarter of the year, to 14 per cent. In comparison, the proportion looking to divest has returned to 20 per cent, up three percentage points from the first quarter of the year.
As Covid restrictions are lifted, 55 per cent of landlords said that their lettings business will continue to be negatively impacted as a result of the pandemic. Again, this masks considerable regional variations.
Some 81 per cent of those in outer London and 78 per cent of those in central London said they would be negatively impacted. At the other end of the spectrum, 49 per cent of those in Yorkshire and the Humber said they would be negatively affected.
Chris Norris, NRLA policy director, said: “The evidence is clear that nationally whilst the demand for homes to rent is increasing, landlords are more reluctant to invest in new properties. The only losers will be tenants as they struggle to find the homes to rent they need. The chancellor needs to recognise the harm being done by tax hikes imposed on the sector.
“It is clear that there is a significant flight of tenants from the capital in response to the Covid pandemic. With lockdown restrictions having ended, and offices beginning to reopen, the jury is out as to whether this trend will continue.”
First-time buyers most likely to delay purchase plans in 2020
The report found that 44 per cent of first-time buyers delayed their house purchase plans in 2020 due to uncertainty in the property market, personal finance worries, concerns around safety of house viewings and job security.
Santander’s Life After Lockdown report analysed the views of 12,000 UK adults between January and March this year and combined their views with industry data to examine how the pandemic impacted attitudes to homebuying.
First-time buyers were more likely than any other group to cite personal finances as their reason for delays, with 47 per cent claiming it was the reason their plans did not go ahead compared to a third of other buyers.
The plight of first-time buyers was worsened by a fall in lending to those with smaller deposits as LTVs shrank during the pandemic.
Figures from the Financial Conduct Authority showed that the share of advances with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios in excess of 90 per cent fell to 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter, which is the lowest level since 2007.
Other factors cited were incomes not keeping pace with rising rent and house prices, which could limit the ability of first-time buyers to save a deposit.
Over the past five years according to the Office for National Statistics, average rent has risen by 10 per cent, whilst income has only risen by 7 per cent.
House prices increased by 8.5 per cent in the second half of last year, now standing at a record high of £252,000 which is the highest seen since 2014.
Only 17 per cent of first-time buyers were able to save a larger deposit during the pandemic, compared to 61 per cent of second and holiday home buyers.
The lender added that the inability to save a larger deposit could be due to first-time buyers working in areas that were more impacted by the pandemic such as leisure, retail and hospitality.
First-time buyers were also the least likely group to bring forward their plans to buy at just 16 per cent, compared to 28 per cent of second home buyers and 24 per cent of buy-to-let investors.
The report also found that 54 per cent thought that the Bank of Mum and Dad, where parents help with the deposit for a house purchase, would be less able to offer support as they prioritised their own finances.
However, the report presented a mixed picture as 57 per cent thought that first-time buyers would become more dependent on the bank of Mum and Dad due to the pandemic.
Its thought that those parents who had not experienced as much financial hardship could be able to offer more money as they were able to save more during various lockdowns.
In order to close the gap for first-time buyers, co-ordinated action was needed by the industry, government and policy makers.
It noted that the government should consider amending stamp duty relief when it returns in October and stamp duty free thresholds should be matched to regional house prices.
Santander also recommended examining affordability requirements and launching a loan scheme for deposits for key workers. Converting commercial building to create extra housing was also mooted.
MPs call for bail out of struggling renters
The Housing, Communities and Local Government committee has warned that the government must move away from last minute extensions to bans on evicting tenants, and instead introduce a system of financial support for those tenants who have amassed “significant arrears”.
And it argued that helping tenants to pay those arrears ‒ at a cost of around £200-£300m ‒ would be the simplest and most straightforward way to support those tenants and ensure that landlords continued to receive an income.
However, MPs also pointed to the low-interest loans adopted in Scotland and Wales as a potential solution worth considering.
Falling through the gaps
According to the report from the committee of MPs, it has been too easy for tenants to fall through the gaps in support provided during the pandemic.
For example, some people who had no access to public funds due to their immigration status were not receiving the support they needed, while the report argued that the government’s poor data collection meant it did not have a good enough understanding of how many tenants were affected.
Clive Betts, chair of the committee, said the level of rent arrears was “deeply concerning”.
He continued: “The ban on evictions has ensured that people remain in their homes for now, but the debt will continue to increase. Landlords, many of whom only own one or two properties, will also be struggling with a loss of income.
“Helping tenants pay their rent arrears would come at a cost, but would ultimately prevent significant expenditure on homelessness assistance further down the line.”
Thousands at risk of eviction
Richard Lane, director of external affairs at the debt charity StepChange, emphasised that without targeted financial support renters face a crisis of “housing insecurity, homelessness and eviction”.
He added: “Around half a million private renters have fallen into arrears since March 2020 and many are now worried about being evicted from their home.
“With the expiry of the rental eviction suspension in just two months, now is the time to tackle the Covid rent debt crisis with decisive solutions.”
Previous research from StepChange has suggested that as many as 150,000 tenants are at risk of eviction due to debts built up as a result of the pandemic.
Less than a third of landlords raised rents in December – Propertymark
Just under a third of rents were raised compared to 28 per cent in November, according to agent trade body ARLA Propertymark.
The number of landlords selling their buy-to-let properties remained the same as November, according to ARLA with just four per branch – this was also the same level as a year previously.
The number of prospective tenants dipped in December month-on-month but was still around eight per cent higher year-on-year.
Regionally, the West Midlands had the highest number of new tenants registered per branch, while London had the second highest figure.
Mark Hayward, chief policy adviser at Propertymark, said: “The slight fall in prospective tenants and properties managed per branch during the month of December is consistent with the usual seasonal lull, and testament to the current steady rental market.
“Letting agents are continuing to support landlords and their tenants during these ongoing difficult times, and it is imperative that tenancies are maintained to keep the rent flowing. The continuity of the private rental sector is vital to the nation’s economic bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Half a million renters in arrears as evictions set to resume
The charity says that in December it helped someone with an issue with their privately rented housing every two minutes; and that half a million private renters in the UK are behind on their rent.
Protection against eviction is due to expire this weekend, coinciding with the third national lockdown and associated economic hardship.
Renters have already been badly affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic with one in three private renters losing income.
According to Citizens Advice, rent arrears is a new scenario for many tenants with 58 per cent of those currently behind on their rent having no rent arrears in February 2020 before the pandemic began. For people already struggling with rent before the pandemic hit, their arrears have got worse for 40 per cent of them.
On average, people who have fallen behind on rent now owe £730, which would mean about £360m is owed across the country, the charity added.
Negotiating with landlords
Citizens Advice points out that mortgage payers have been able to benefit from payment holidays, but renters have been forced to fall back on negotiating month-by-month with their landlords.
The temporary ban on bailiffs enforcing evictions in Tiers 2, 3 and 4 ends on 11 January and Citizens Advice is warning that, without further help for renters, an avalanche of evictions could take place in the spring.
A quarter of those the charity surveyed who have rent arrears have already been threatened with eviction, termination of their rental contract, or handed an eviction notice despite the current rules.
Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “As coronavirus restrictions once again tighten for everyone, the government must not forget the struggles of private renters.
“They currently face the prospect of losing their home once the eviction ban ends next week and the debt they have built up is likely to cast a long shadow over their future.
He noted that half a million private renters remain behind on their rent, with the majority falling behind during the pandemic restrictions and highlighted they had no structured way to defer payments.
“Even though many landlords are trying their best to support their tenants, thousands of renters could face eviction in the coming months without further help,” he said.
“The government must act decisively to prevent evictions in areas subject to the highest coronavirus restrictions. And they should provide targeted support to help people escape the trap of rent arrears in the New Year.”
Extend ban on repossession action
Citizens Advice is calling for a legal ban on bailiff action and a pause on all possession proceedings during the national lockdown in England and in tiers 2 and above beyond 11 January.
It’s also demanding targeted financial support for people in England who have built up rent arrears.
It says the government should consider a system of grants and government-backed loans – comparable to schemes in Scotland and Wales – to help people pay back their rent arrears sustainably and stay in their homes.
The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has also called for a financial package to help struggling renters to pay off arrears built since lockdown measures began.
Tenants can accrue 18 months’ arrears with no eviction under temporary rules
According to the legislation eviction orders will not be granted unless the tenant is in “substantial arrears” which were accrued before 23 March.
Substantial arrears are classed as the equivalent of nine months’ missed payments or more. Any payments that have been not been made from 23 March onwards must be disregarded.
This means a tenant who is supposed to pay their rent on the first day of the month, for example, who has missed eight months’ rent before the March cut off and does not make any payments for the ten months from April to January cannot be evicted until the legislation expires on 11 January.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “In trying to arrive at a compromise the government has failed to help those in genuine need while rewarding those whose arrears have nothing to do with the pandemic, and in some cases are wilfully not paying their rent.
“This is doing nothing to help those tenants who are trying to do the right thing and seeking to pay off their debts.
“Instead of prolonging the problem with short-term fixes, the government needs to urgently bring in a financial package to enable tenants to pay off rent arrears.”
Eviction surge not likely as less than five per cent of tenants in arrears – NRLA
In a survey of private tenants carried out by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), 87 per cent of tenants said they had maintained their full rent payments throughout the pandemic. A further eight per cent said they had agreed with their landlord to pay lower rent, take a payment holiday or made other arrangements, while three per cent had built up arrears and were unable or unwilling to repay the debt.
A ban on evicting tenants was brought in at the start of the lockdown period to protect renters in financial difficulty. But from 24 August, the courts will begin to hear possession cases again.
Some two per cent of those surveyed said they had been served with an eviction notice.
NRLA also reported that in a separate survey, 55 per cent of landlords who have granted at least one tenant a deferred rent or rent free period plan to absorb the losses from their own savings.
These figures come ahead of new rules being introduced which will mean courts can adjourn possession cases where landlords have failed to adequately explain the impact that the pandemic might have had on their tenants before seeking possession.
The trade body has developed guidance along with with other groups to support landlords and tenants on reaching an agreement over how to deal with rent arrears to sustain tenancies wherever possible. NRLA is also calling for the government to introduce a tenant loan scheme to help pay off arrears built up due to the coronavirus.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, said: “The vast majority of landlords and tenants are working together to sustain tenancies, and critically the overwhelming majority of tenants are paying rent as normal. Eviction is not, and need not be, an inevitable outcome where tenants have struggled to pay their rent due to Covid-19. Those who argue otherwise are stoking needless anxiety for tenants.”
PM: Measures to protect private renters from eviction coming soon
UPDATED: The government has since released the package of measures to support landlords and tenants during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Johnson (pictured) said the government was bringing forward legislation to protect renters, during his weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in parliament.
“I can confirm we will be bringing forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction. That is one thing we will do,” Johnson said.
“But it is also important as we legislate that we do not simply pass on the problem, so we will also be bringing in steps to protect other actors in the economy.”
Speaking to ITV, business secretary Alok Sharma added: “There are millions of people across our country who rent, some of them will have anxiety about what would happen if they do indeed start to suffer from Covid-19.
“The chancellor was very clear yesterday in the house, is that we are looking very actively at this.
“The housing secretary will be coming forward very shortly setting out the measures to protect renters.”
The government faced criticism for not detailing measures to support private renters after offering homeowners in financial difficulty a three month payment holiday from their mortgage.
ARLA Propertymark chief executive David Cox approved of the move.
“We agree that the government must do “whatever it takes” to safeguard tenants in these unprecedented times,” he said.
“We of course have to support tenants as they face uncertainty over the coming months, while as the prime minister has said, ensuring we don’t simply pass on the problem to other actors in the economy.”