You’re lucky to have £23 left after paying the bills …. Renting?

How much money do you need each week to enjoy a decent life, once the rent or mortgage, gas and electricity and food shop are seen to? Some cash for lunch at work. Maybe a weekly trip to the cinema or pub, the occasional restaurant visit, while putting money aside for an annual holiday. Yet shocking figures from Nationwide reveal that a third of people privately renting in the UK – that army of workers paying off the mortgages of other, richer, people – have just £23 left to spend each week.

Nationwide’s analysis of the private rental market blows the whistle on the ludicrous claim from buy-to-let merchants that people choose to rent and that they enjoy a jaunty iPhone-and-avocado-on-toast lifestyle.

The bald truth is that just 6% of renters like the flexibility of being a tenant. Most people are renting for one reason – high house prices leave them with no alternative.

More than half of renters told Nationwide that they are only renting because they can’t afford to buy, or get a council house, while most of the others end up in the private rental sector due to marriage breakdown. It’s evident that if they had the choice, they would not choose to rent a pricey, boxy flat from a buy-to-let landlord.

The other major finding to emerge from Nationwide’s research is that the “average” tenant does not exist. Only a small proportion of private renters are students and people in their early 20s living in a shared household.

“In fact, they are more likely to be couples (47%), families (11%) or those living alone (30%), rather than young people living with university friends (7%). More than a third of men surveyed (35%) rent a home alone, compared to one in four (25%) women, with lack of affordability or a change in life circumstances most likely to be the cause,” it said.

It’s hardly surprising that tenants have a long list of regrets about renting. Top of the list is the sheer “waste of money because others are profiting”. Another 20% said the cost of rent was too high, while one in seven worried about the lack of security. Others griped about the cost of moving and the poor quality of accommodation. One in 25 tenants said the worst thing was that they were forbidden the companionship of a pet. Yet my inbox is filled with bleating from landlords’ representatives about their tough old lives. Taxation, they wail, is hitting profits. They claim stamp duty is unfair and a ban on letting agency fees will have to be passed to tenants. With a straight face they say they have to raise rents because of the government, not because of their greed.

By : Patrick Collinson at

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