2021 – what will happen to the rental market?


At the start of 2020, supplies of rental property were plunging and rents were rising. In January, Homelet’s Rental Index showed average rents were up by 2.3% and by 4.4% in London. Despite a raft of upcoming tax and legislative changes, landlords’ confidence remained surprisingly high - 25% were expecting rents to increase, and 32% were expecting property prices to rise (source: Paragon Mortgages). Then, just as with the sales market, March came and everything ground to a halt. Afraid of mass evictions and tenant hardship, the government allowed tenants to take a three month rental holiday and banned evictions.


Pent up demand ensured there was plenty of activity when the market re-opened in May, although COVID restrictions made viewings more complicated than previously. Just like the sales market, demand for inner city properties was markedly lower than for other areas, with tenants searching for more open spaces, resulting in a market that was operating at two different speeds.


As we moved into summer, landlords, unable to evict tenants, were becoming increasingly concerned about tenants’ arrears, although rents continued to rise - up by 2.1% between July and August. In the autumn, there was a brief window of opportunity for landlords to evict problem tenants, but with such large backlogs, only the most serious cases were heard. The extension of the furlough scheme until April 2021 did offer some comfort, providing vital financial support for both companies and their employees.


By the time the year ended, rents had risen by 2.7% across the country but had fallen by 4.5% in London. The average rent (excluding London) is now £838 and £1,556 in the capital (source: Homelet).


Commenting on the outlook for 2021, Andy Halstead, chief executive at HomeLet & Let Alliance, said:


“Whilst overarching optimism remains strong for 2021, with vaccines being rolled out for COVID, we can still expect a year that will be disrupted by the impact of the virus. With the new national lockdown and the prospect of additional restrictions to help curb the impact of the virus and new variants, we can expect the demand for certain property types and locations to grow, pushing rents up further.”


Our eventual return to commuting may also lead to increased demand for properties in city centres, especially if, as expected, the cost of commuting rises substantially as transport companies try to make up for their substantial losses.


As ever, there are some legislative changes to watch out for this year - electrical safety tests will be required for all existing tenanted properties by April 1st, although, the government is being lobbied to extend the deadline for another 12 months. The eviction ban has just been extended for another 6 weeks and may well be extended again. And, finally, the Right to Rent checks on EU citizens will change from 30th June 2021 to take into account the new Points Based Immigration System.