Renting ‘need not be a poor relation to home owning’


18 January 2017

  • New IPPR report compares renting in England and Germany, calling for a ‘national tenants’ union’ to improve renting here.
  • 40 per cent of German households live in private rented housing compared to just 19 percent in England.
  • German tenancy lengths dwarf England’s, with an average length of 11 years compared to 2.5 years here.
  • More tenants in England are overburdened by renting costs. 33% spend more than two fifths of their income on housing compared to 23% in Germany.

Private rented accommodation does not need to be a ‘poor relation to home ownership’ if the UK learns from other countries such as Germany, a new report has argued.

Dr. Ed Turner, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Aston University, has co-authored a report for the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) which finds several shortfalls in the English private rented sector compared to Germany – a country where renting is the dominant tenure and appears able to offer both stability and security to its 40 million plus tenants.

The report finds that German tenants enjoy greater security of tenure, lower proportions of income spent on housing costs, and hold greater power through membership of local tenant associations that can lobby in addition to providing legal cover and advice.

The report reads: “The private rented sector (PRS) does not need to be a poor relation to home ownership or social renting. We can turn our attention to other countries in which the challenges presented by the PRS are managed with more success.

“This paper finds a number of similarities between the German and English rental markets, including the processes for finding a property to rent, checks on tenants’ finances, and expensive deposits.

“There are, however many areas of divergence where the German PRS appears more generous and secure, making it a more attractive offer to prospective tenants.”

Dr. Ed Turner, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Aston University, said: “The role played by the Private Rented Sector in the UK has changed enormously in recent years – with far more families in it, not just students and single people.  This takes us in the direction of the sector in Germany, and we argue there is much we can learn from Germany about how to raise standards and give tenants the stability they deserve.”

IPPR is calling for renters in England to grasp the same kind of collective power that those in Germany enjoy, to take greater control of their housing. The thinktank is calling for the Government to support and fund the convening on a fully independent working group of third-sector, public and private organisations to develop a framework for building a new national tenants’ association.

In addition, IPPR is recommending that mass membership organisations, including trade unions, should explore ways for taking a more active role in supporting their private tenant members through legal advice and dispute resolution support services. It also says that insurance companies should offer extensions to tenant insurance products to cover legal fees in cases of tenant-landlord disputes, as standard.

Charlotte Snelling, IPPR researcher on housing, said: “Private tenants in England often pay high rents and receive mediocre service in return.

“Private tenants need to be given much greater voice and power. This could be done by following the example of Germany’s powerful tenants’ associations.

“This will help make sure their voice is heard in a debate that is often dominated by the goal of home ownership as well as provide them with more practical help to drive up the quality of rented homes.

“Doing this as well as better regulation of renting and building many more homes will be key to solving the housing crisis.”

The report will be launched at the House of Commons on Wednesday, 18th January for an event hosted and chaired by Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning Rt. Hon. John Healey MP.


Notes to the editor

  • You can download a copy of Lessons from Germany: Tenant power in the rented market  by clicking here.
  • The authors of the report were: Bill Davies, a senior research fellow at IPPR when this report was drafted; Charlotte Snelling, a researcher at IPPR; Ed Turner, a senior lecturer and head of politics and international relations at Aston University, based in the Aston Centre for Europe; Susanne Marquardt, a researcher at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
  • The German Academic Exchange Service DAAD funded this project, which was the result of a co-operation betweenthe IPPR, Aston University and the Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB).

About Dr. Ed Turner

  • Ed Turner is Head of Politics and International Relations at Aston University, based in Aston Centre for Europe (ACE). He is particularly interested in federalism, decentralisation and public policy. He wrote his doctoral thesis about the impact of political parties on public policy at the sub-national level in Germany, and retains a keen interest in all aspects of modern German politics.
  • In his spare time, Ed serves on the LGA's Environment, Economy, Transport and Housing Board. He has been involved in three major reviews of housing policy: the Local Housing Delivery Group, the Technical Housing Standards Review and, most recently, the Lyons Review of Housing Policy.

About IPPR

  • IPPR aims to influence policy in the present and reinvent progressive politics in the future, and is dedicated to the better country that Britain can be through progressive policy and politics. With nearly 60 staff across four offices throughout the UK, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.
  • Our independent research is wide ranging, it covers the economy, work, skills, transport, democracy, the environment, education, energy, migration and healthcare among many other areas.

About Aston University

  • Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has been always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry. True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, in 2016 Aston will hold a year-long anniversary celebration to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey.
  • Aston'sVice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Alec Cameron, is the principal academic and executive officer of the University. Alec has overall responsibility for Aston's executive management and day-to-day direction.

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