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Understanding landlords in an age of soaring rents

Author: Chris Lord
Institution: NatCen Social Research
Type of case study: Research

About the research

In 2013, the UK Communities and Local Government Committee of Parliament advocated for more protection for private rental tenants, citing concerns regarding the growing numbers of tenants with children, unsafe living conditions, increasing rents, and exorbitant letting fees.

The social science studies of landlords in the private rented sector have to date been limited in scope and detail. This report presents research on private landlords in Britain with an aim to inform the political debate on these issues with key descriptive evidence regarding:

  • the landlord population in the UK and how it has grown
  • the socio-economic characteristics of buy-to-let landlords, specifically their capabilities, economic security, financial position and financial planning

The researchers found that landlords in the private rented sector have risen over the last decade, currently at around two per cent of the adult population.

Compared to tenants who rent from private landlords and other social groups, the majority of these landlords have a more privileged background — that is, they tend to be white older males who are married, well educated, employed, and with no children at home.

The mean financial wealth of private-sector landlords is £75,103 compared to £9,506 for their tenants. Additionally, these landlords save more money at far greater rates than the general population, believing that such investments are necessary for their retirement pensions and further real estate ventures. Sixty-two per cent of private landlords report that they’re able to withstand the economic risk of a quarter drop in income for a year or more.

The report presents evidence to inform the policy debate on landlord and tenant rights. The accompanying policy document ‘Whose Home? Understanding landlords and their effect on public policy’ suggests that policy changes that favour tenants over landlords may have little impact on landlords.


Analysis methods included descriptive analysis and binary logistic regression, taking into account the complex sampling design and weighting procedures used in the surveys. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, the differences are statistically significant.


Lord, C., Lloyd, J. and Barnes, M. (2013) Understanding landlords, research paper, Strategic Society Centre. Retrieved 24 March 2014 from

Lloyd, J. (2013) Whose Home? Understanding landlords and their effect on public policy, research paper, Strategic Society Centre. Retrieved 24 March 2014 from

In addition, this research received the following media coverage:

Dale, S. (4 July 2013) ‘Thinktank calls for BTL lending cap to boost home ownership’, Money Marketing. Retrieved 24 March 2014 from

The Economist (20 July 2013) ‘The changing property market: Rented castles’, The Economist. Retrieved 24 March 2014 from

Lloyd, T. (4 July 2013) ‘First-time buyers held back by landlords’, Inside Housing. Retrieved 24 March 2014 from

Osborne, H. (4 July 2013) ‘Ban landlords from buying new-build properties, says thinktank’, The Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2014 from

Trowbridge, P. (4 July 2013) ‘Landlord growth “blocking first-time buyers”‘, Sky News. Retrieved 24 March 2014 from

Whateley, L. (3 July 2013) ‘Rich landlords block first-time buyers’, The Times. Retrieved 24 March 2014 from