Willing tenants: Myth or reality?

Sitting in a Brighton doctor’s waiting room yesterday, I came across a local estate agent’s new in-house ‘property magazine’. Skimming through the advertisements for a whole host of extremely high value property for sale and to let, I came across some articles. The one that caught my eye was the one saying that perhaps most Brighton & Hove tenants now prefer to rent rather than buy. That was news to me!

Back in the day, at the age of 22 to 25, people would start looking to buy their first home; often thinking of having children and wanting a secure long-term home in which to start a family. That sounds so old-school and prosaic now. Why? Two reasons: in the distant past, local property prices correlated with earnings and even people on average incomes could afford to buy; and renting a property was a useful affordable interim and tenants had more security of tenure.

Now, with 6 month Assured Shorthold Tenancies, people can settle into a property and suddenly the landlord may want possession and the tenants have no recourse. Meanwhile, property buying prices are out of reach for most First Time Buyers so they remain in what is for some tenants, a somewhat insecure living environment. As a society, we have moved from property as a secure space, to it being seen by many people as an asset they can use as they see fit, and the tenant is purely the income provider.

Many not so young folk in Brighton and Hove, now in the mid to late 30s and renting, are still hoping for a time when they will feel secure enough to have children. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) quotes: ‘“The average age of mums and dads in England and Wales has increased by almost 4 years over the last 4 decades. At the birth of a child in 2015, fathers averaged 33.2 years of age and mothers 30.3 years. Falling birth rates among the under-30s and rising birth rates at older ages reflect trends evident since the mid-1970s to delay childbearing to later ages.” ‘

Clearly, people make lifestyle choices but there is little doubt from conversations I’ve had that more secure tenancies could and should be a part of the answer to this conundrum; different tenancy options being made available to prospective tenants and at ‘affordable‘ rents. There is talk of offering 3 and 5 year tenancies: this could be one solution; the landlord knows they have a long-term secure income which can be index-linked and tenants feel secure and ‘settle down’. These models are being explored and we may see some positive changes.

Our current ‘one size fits all’ rental market does not fit the bill. Some people only want to rent short term, whilst many others want long-term security of tenure.

Let’s hope we see a will to make changes. It requires landlords’ and the government’s support but will lay the bedrock for more stability in communities and society as a whole; surely a good thing.


Paul Bonett   F.N.A.E.A.  M.A.R.L.A.