What is it like to be living alone and renting today? In the UK, people living alone will spend a higher proportion of their income on housing costs when demand for rental properties is 20% higher than last year and while the number of available properties has dropped by 9%.
Current renting landscape
Figures from the ONS tell us that people living alone in the United Kingdom are more likely to be renters and living on one income, with housing costs being their most significant expense. Solo households will spend a greater proportion of their household income on rent, mortgages, and other housing costs, including energy and council tax, compared to couples without children.
At the same time, Rightmove report that private renting prices have soared to an all-time high, with annual and quarter-upon-quarter rises. In the second quarter of 2022, the national average asking price for rent was £1126 per month across the UK, a quarterly rise of 3.5% and representing a yearly rise of 11.8%.
By September 2022, asking rent prices rose to a record high – on average £1162 per calendar month, representing a quarterly rise of another 3.2% and a yearly rise of 11%. The figures are even more staggering for London. On average, rents were £2343 per month for the third quarter – an annual jump of 16.1%.
Simply put, the cost of renting has soared at a time when rental demand is 20% higher than last year but when the number of available properties is down by 9%.
What’s in demand and why
Of interest to Solos, Rightmove also shares that demand for studio flats is now outstripping demand for the one-bedroom, previously the most in-demand type of flat.
The attraction of the city seems to be returning, budgets are stretched, and it may mean competition for properties between Solos and couples adds even more pressure to a hot market. We hope Solos won’t be disadvantaged because they have one income if a private landlord feels more comfortable with a tenancy involving two sources of income.
Indeed, one of our community members, Stacie, aged thirty, tells us below about her difficulty getting onto the housing ladder even while in a good job and progressing in her career. Accumulating the sizeable deposit required is proving challenging on her own. She is resigned to renting until she has the deposit for the house she wants.
She comments that unlike others she knows who have financial support from parents who can help with a deposit, she is trying to get on the housing ladder financially on her own and continues to pay high rent. She does encouragingly say that as a Solo, she has never experienced any disadvantage from rental agencies and landlords as a solo renter.
Rises in mortgage rates will also likely impact renting. First-time buyers may put off buying because of rising interest rates and current market instability – meaning that, like Stacie, they may stay within the pool of renters, putting further strain on the number of available homes.
Landlords may ‘quit the market’, again, because of rising interest rises and costly buy-to-let mortgages, as another one of our Solo Living community members, Kim, pointed out, because profits may prove to be too slim to continue.
The pressure is on when it comes to our solo incomes and the upward cost of living we are experiencing at the moment, and it is being felt among solos who live alone and rent their homes too.
We asked our Solo Living Community about their renting experiences. Most striking is the lack of security people feel while renting and when future rent rises are unpredictable and not out of the question in England and Wales.
Being a renter and spending a higher proportion of income on housing costs does not provide the same kind of security over a home that mortgage owners can feel. It can result in a reduced sense of control over one’s life when something as fundamental as a future in a home is in the hands of someone else, as Victoria mentions below.
What support is available to renters?
The Scottish Government has offered some protection to renters during the cost of living crisis by outlawing rent rises and evictions until March 2023. Northern Ireland has also introduced a rent freeze while London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, asked for rent-freezing powers, but so far, the government has not responded. There has been a call for rent freezes in Wales, too; however, the Welsh government currently fear that a rent freeze may result in landlords withdrawing available homes for rent.
Here is what our Solo Living Community members say about renting today:
“When my marriage ended, I had to start again from scratch. I was 47, and my worldly possessions fit in my car. Nearly four years on, I’m back on my feet, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to own my own home again. I could afford the mortgage, but I just don’t have the deposit, so I am destined to rent. I’m lucky to have a great landlord who has a few properties; however, not a day goes by when I don’t worry about what I would do or where I’d go if he gave me notice. I’d probably have to move away from the town I love to be able to afford anything else at the moment. I’m a practical person and not a worrier by nature, but I am definitely concerned about the future, especially when I’m old.”
“I’m a 30-year-old living alone, so, unfortunately, the only option I’ve had is to rent properties. Unfortunately, I don’t have any financial support from my parents, so it’s all on me! I’m lucky I’ve managed to work my way up in my job and earn a decent enough wage, but it still seems seemingly impossible to save a deposit for a house by myself.
I’ve looked into the help-to-buy scheme, but the lowest deposit rate you can give can still mean you are paying ridiculously high mortgage costs! (Sometimes more than rental costs).
Renting keeps my options open, but I worry about the security of staying in my rental property sometimes!
Regarding estate agents and landlords, I don’t feel I’ve been treated any differently being a solo tenant, and I’ve never had any issues or comments from neighbours being a solo tenant! In fact, my two next-door neighbours both live alone too!
I really enjoy living alone, and I am lucky I can afford the rent alone, but I think the rental prices in Bristol, where I live, are ridiculously high, and landlords take advantage of the high rental costs! I can understand why people struggle to live and rent alone; it is VERY costly when you add the rent and bills altogether!”
“I’ve been renting for six years now and wish I’d never had to sell my home. I’m always on edge in case the owners want the property back. It never feels like a home as I am not allowed to decorate or hang pictures and if you have pets, finding landlords who will accept them is a nightmare. The three monthly checks when the agents come to look over the property feel so intrusive. As a retired person, it’s difficult for landlords to accept that your income will not change, so they prefer someone working, which can drastically change things.”
“Three years ago, I had a four-bedroom house mortgage-free. Sounds ideal. I was unemployed, and both children had moved out. I found it became increasingly difficult to heat the house on my limited income, and it badly needed essential repairs. All these worries were affecting my mental health. My only solution was to sell. I’m fortunate to have found a lovely one-bed ground-floor flat overlooking a park. My mental health has improved by leaps and bounds. I have no worries if the heating is faulty or if any major appliances break. My landlord quickly sorts out issues – the boiler leak was fixed in 48hrs. I’m now retired and loving life in my rented home.”
“I’m from a generation that only rented until they could buy, which I did at 26. Unfortunately, now renting is not as affordable as it was in the 90s. Renting does give the flexibility that owning a home does not, of course, and new rolling contracts (in Scotland at least) mean you only need to provide a month’s notice which is great when you need to be flexible, moving for work, life circumstances etc.
I fear that while current rent freezes benefit tenants, many landlords with borderline profits will quit the market, selling up before property prices fall any further, worsening the already chronic rental housing situation. Average rents in Glasgow are now over £1k a month, unaffordable to many as it is.
From another perspective, I’ve had one solo tenant, and the rest have been older couples. I thought it was odd that the single lady rented the flat because it’s too big for one person (which was why I moved out), but she seemed to enjoy living there. She did travel a lot for business. It looked much smarter with her antique Eastern European furniture than my IKEA rubbish!”
“My daughter’s father lives alone and rents a 3-bed house in a ‘nice’ area. When others visit, the prestige value is worth the money for him. He bought a house twice before, but the second time was a beautiful huge house. However, unknown to him, it was in a terrible location for nighttime noise, road noise and kids shouting & screaming from the park. He’s a bit scared to buy again because of that mistake. So being flush with cash from selling the big house, he isn’t really caring about rent costs. Longer term, he knows he will get an inheritance, so he hasn’t any future pressures either.”
“I’ve always been single, with no help from anywhere. And against all advice (from people who knew nothing about it), I bought a shared ownership place at the age of 30. It’s not been easy, but it was a good way to get on the housing ladder.”