Build-to-Rent – A model that’s built to last

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Private rental tenants left fighting with rogue landlords over poor accommodation and overdue repair and maintenance issues will be consulted on a new complaints system, the Government has announced this week. However, at a time where transient lifestyles and unachievable house prices attract and keep more people in the rental market, I can’t help thinking that we should fix the whole sector, rather than basically just creating a way to deal with the problems a bit more efficiently. Surely that’s missing the point entirely?

Sajid Javid, the Communities and Housing Secretary, has launched an eight-week consultation on a new scheme to crack down on bad landlords renting out overcrowded and dangerous homes. The current system leaves thousands without solutions, requiring tenants to navigate through at least four different associations and bodies to register a complaint, and it’s this complexity that is being exploited by bad landlords, with little risk of Government intervention.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Private Rented Sector (PRS), the build-to-rent market continues to make great strides, recently breaking the 100,000-unit milestone. The British Property Federation, which has been tracking the planning pipeline, as well as construction progress and completions of build-to-rent homes for the last few years, has recently reported a total of 105,214 units either in planning, under construction, or completed.  Nearly 60,000 of these are in London, and the remaining 45,900 cropping up in cities and towns across the UK, including Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham.

The model, which has been heavily influenced by the US ‘multi-family’ market, takes the best of the lifestyle culture in the private sale market, and not only removes the need for tenants to deal with rogue landlords, but the new modern, amenity-rich apartment blocks, which are designed and built specifically for private tenants, actually improve the rental experience, with convenience, customer service and community at their core.

The rate at which this sector is growing, and the demand for a more premium rental product from an increasingly discerning tenant population is testament to the fact that the PRS can not only survive, but thrive, without the rogue landlords and expensive letting agents. Established developers, reputable corporate landlords, experienced operators and sector-leading suppliers are collaborating to bring the same high standards of design, specification, amenities, and lifestyle benefits to the rental market as buyers have been enjoying almost exclusively in the UK for some time. The professionalisation of the sector has already started in earnest, and it’s build-to-rent, not buy-to-let that’s leading the way.