Finance for housing
An introduction

Seven: The private rented sector


The private rented sector was in decline for most of the 20th century. The Housing Act 1988 and deregulation of the financial services sector are being claimed as the keys to its apparent phoenix-like recent growth. Some commentators are now focusing on private renting and identifying potential for it to play a significant role in housing low-income households, as the Coalition government wants. But is this new private rented sector any different from the old one, which was notable for badly managed, poor-quality and expensive housing? This chapter will examine this in a number of ways:

  • rent control and selective decontrol: the decline of private renting in the 1930s;

  • early 1950s London: the problems of decontrolled rents and uncontrolled landlords;

  • the 1960s and the ‘fair rent’ solution for a ‘regulated’ market;

  • the Housing Act 1988 and the ‘independent rented sector’ with rents and tenancies that are now ‘assured’;

  • a focus on growth: buy-to-let mortgages and homeowners renting out their home because they cannot sell;

  • 25 years of deregulation – expensive rents, poor living conditions and limited security. Can private rented housing provide a long-term home?

The idea of rent control – administratively fixing rents in private lettings at a particular level rather than allowing the landlord to do so – has been discussed in Chapter One. There have been different forms of rent control. Their impact has been much exaggerated. Rent control or, most recently, rent regulation, has affected private rented housing in different ways depending on the landlord arrangements (resident or non-resident), type of letting (furnished or unfurnished) and/or the rateable value of the property.

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