25 May 2022

Balancing act: Landlords torn between raising rent and helping tenants struggling with the cost of living

  • 74% of landlords feel sense of duty to support tenants during times of financial difficulty
  • More than four in ten landlords have given financial support to tenants over past 12 months
  • Landlords could reduce rents by up to 7.6% before their finances become detrimentally impacted
  • But more than half plan to hike rent over next 12 months as costs continue to rise

Rising living costs and interest rates is causing concern among landlords, as many face a decision to raise rents or support their tenants by taking a financial hit themselves, research1 from The Landlord Works shows.

Around three quarters (74%) of landlords say they feel a responsibility to support their tenants during times of financial hardship and, with the cost of living continuing to rise, more than four in ten (44%) have financially supported their tenants during the last 12 months, such as reducing or pausing rent. The research shows that landlords could stomach reducing their rents by an average of 7.6 per cent before coming under pressure - equating to around £50 per property a month based on a typical landlord’s rental income2.

While many are able to reduce rent, close to half (45%) of all landlords say any reduction would harm them financially. Around four in ten (38%) said they intend to keep rents the same for the next year despite the financial challenges, while more than half (55%) say they need to increase rents over the next 12 months. One in four (25%) plan to raise the rent on all their properties.

Rising rents:

Landlords with larger portfolios are more likely to increase rent on at least some of their properties, the poll highlights. Three quarters (75%) of those who own more than ten properties aim to increase their rents over the next 12 months, compared to just 44 per cent of landlords owning between one and three properties. In fact, 46 per cent of those landlords with a small portfolio plan to keep rents the same. Across the regions, landlords in Yorkshire & The Humber (68%), outer London (65%), the North West (63%) and Wales (63%) are most likely to increase rents on some or all of their properties over the next 12 months.

Those landlords using their rental properties to offset their mortgages are also more likely to raise rents, with nearly two thirds (63%) planning an increase compared to just 44 per cent of unleveraged landlords.

Concern for struggling tenants:

Despite the plan to increase rents, well over half (57%) of landlords are concerned about whether their tenants can maintain their rental payments, with more than one in ten (13%) admitting they are very concerned. This increases to nearly three quarters (74%) of landlords who let to claimants of Local Housing Allowance and 71 per cent of landlords who let to retired people.

Regionally, landlords in East Midlands (74%), Wales (70%) and Yorkshire and The Humber (62%) appear to be most concerned about the ability of their tenants to pay the monthly rent. However, perhaps unsurprisingly, only around a third (32%) of landlords in Central London are worried about receiving their rent.

Supporting tenants:

In terms of the support offered to tenants by 44 per cent of landlords, temporary rent reductions and rental payment holidays are the most common options. Support provided includes:

  • Temporary rent reduction (22%)
  • Rental payment holiday (15%)
  • Permanent rent reduction (4%)
  • Lent money to support their day-to-day living (3%)

Sustainable rent reduction:

Landlords with smaller portfolios are able to reduce rents by a slightly higher amount. Compared to the average of 7.6 per cent for all landlord types, those with one property can reduce by an average of 8.7%, while those with two or three properties are able to reduce rents by 9.3%. Of those who could reduce rents, nearly half (47%) of them say they could sustain it for six months or more, while 42 per cent say they could keep the reduction going for between three and six months. Those landlords making a fulltime living from their lettings activity (60%) and those who are retired (51%) are significantly more likely to say they could sustain the rent reduction for more than six months.

Paul Wootton, Director of The Landlord Works, said: “Landlords are facing a real dilemma at the moment in dealing with the continued rising cost of living. On the one hand, there is a need to ensure they can cover the increasing costs associated with their properties and ensure they are following the market. However, as our research demonstrates, they are also acutely aware of the financial challenges facing their tenants.

“It’s great to see such a high proportion of landlords feel a sense of responsibility towards supporting these tenants during these challenging times. And in a lot of cases, this sentiment has been met by financial support for their tenants over the last twelve months. While we will see rents rise over the coming months in many cases, we can also expect landlords to offer continued support at what is a tough time for many.”


Notes to editors

Photo of Paul Wootton: Paul Wootton, Director of The Landlord Works (nationwidemediacentre.co.uk)

1 Research conducted by BVA Group / BDRC with 729 UK landlords between January and March 2022.

2 Source: BVA BDRC’s Core Landlords Panel tracker. Mean annual per property gross rental income: £7,625.