How renting differs across Scotland, England and Wales

Discover the different rules, trends and tenant attitudes across Great Britain

Landlord Advice

29 March 2017

Being a landlord is about more than just letting out a property – you have to be safe and responsible in order to really cut it.

But a landlord’s responsibilities, as well as tenant attitudes and concerns, can change depending on a number of factors, including location.

To find out what it takes to be a successful landlord wherever you are in Great Britain, read our guide to how renting differs across Scotland, England and Wales.

Landlords’ responsibilities

Landlords across Britain must ensure that their rented properties are safe, have correctly installed electrical and gas equipment and have an Energy Performance Certificate. They must also protect tenants’ deposits within a government-approved scheme.

However, some landlord responsibilities differ between England, Wales and Scotland:

Registering

  • In Scotland, landlords must register with the local council.
  • In Wales, landlords must register with Rent Smart Wales and, if they’re managing the property themselves, have a licence. If not, they must use a licensed agent.
  • In England there is no nationwide obligation for landlords to register, though certain boroughs require property managers to have a private rented property licence.

Repairs

  • Scotland introduced the Repairing Standard in September 2007, which set out the basic repair requirements that landlords must adhere to.
  • Landlords in England and Wales must comply with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, which was introduced by the Housing Act 2004.
  • Under the Welsh government’s Houses into Homes initiative, property managers can apply for a loan to help them return their empty properties to use as rental accommodation.

Tenants’ rights and responsibilities

Tenant rights and responsibilities are broadly the same across Great Britain. Since February 2016, however, landlords in England have been required to check tenants’ ‘Right to Rent’. This involves renters having to submit identity documents – which prove they have the right to remain in the UK – to landlords.

As mentioned above, property managers must protect their tenants' deposits. This is done by putting the money into a government-backed scheme.

  • In England and Wales the three initiatives are the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, MyDeposits and the Deposit Protection Service. Can you include a link to the renting out your property guide for England and wales section on gov.co.uk
  • In Scotland the schemes are: my|deposits Scotland, SafeDeposits Scotland and the Letting Protection Service Scotland.

Landlord associations

When they need support, landlords can turn to industry associations. There are two types: national bodies, which are essentially pressure groups that lobby on behalf of the industry; and regional bodies, which act on local issues faced by their members.

There are three associations that cover two or more British nations:

A more light-hearted concern was polishing household items, which seemed to worry well over twice as many Londoners and Scots (3.7% and 3.2%) as it did Welsh people (1.5%).

Landlords with UK-wide property portfolios who need advice can approach the National Landlords Association, which has a working knowledge of the laws and regulations affecting the private-rented sector throughout the UK. Landlords with properties across England only may benefit from the help of the Residential Landlords Association, which has regional branches in the likes of Barnsley, Cornwall and York.

Differing attitudes among regional renters

While the renting framework differs slightly between England, Scotland and Wales, so too does the attitude of renters – as revealed by the responses to the latest AXA Tenant Survey*.

Happy to rent?

Tenants north of the border are generally happier to rent rather than own. Almost one in ten Scottish respondents said they were “very happy” to rent, compared with just over 3% of Welsh renters and almost 6% of London tenants. Another renters’ happiness hot spot is the East Midlands, where just over 9% of respondents said they too were “very happy” to be a tenant.

North East England, however, has the greatest proportion of content renters. Almost 28% of tenants from the region said they were “happy” to rent, which compares with almost 14% of Welsh respondents, 13% of Scottish respondents and 9% of Londoners.

The majority of tenants from each region said they were “neither happy nor unhappy” with renting, though 11% of Londoners said they were “very unhappy” with not owning their own property – much higher than the 5% in Scotland and Wales.

The stigma of renting

Despite the relatively high discontent in the capital, only a third of Londoners think there’s a stigma attached to renting – something 35% of Welsh tenants and 19% of Scottish renters agree with.

Interestingly, over 38% of respondents – a greater proportion than any other British region – from the East Midlands said they believed that renting came with a stigma, despite its relatively high number of “very happy” renters.

How long people plan to rent for

With its sky-high house prices, it’s little surprise that almost 13% of Londoners think they’ll still be renting in six to ten years’ time – a higher proportion than anywhere else in Britain, and one that compares to just 8% of Scottish respondents and 9% of Welsh tenants.

Wales and Scotland, however, appear to have a larger proportion of lifetime renters. Almost 8% of Scottish – and over 6% of Welsh – respondents said they expected to still be renting in more than three decades’ time, which compares to just over 4% of those living in the capital.

The ideal tenancy agreement length

Over one quarter of Londoners think the perfect tenancy-agreement period is 12 months – more than any other length of time. The preferred choice among Scottish (one third) and Welsh (one fifth) tenants, meanwhile, isn’t a length of time as such, but a month-to-month rolling contract.

While three and four-year options were the least popular lengths in every region, it’s clear that some tenants – depending on where they are – prefer longer-term tenancies. In Scotland and Wales, almost 13 and 11% of respective respondents would choose a ten-year tenancy if they could – compared with just over 4% of capital-based tenants.

Improving tenants’ lives

Renting is big business – 20% of families are tenants rather than homeowners, and HM Revenue & Customs recently estimated that the country’s landlords earned £14.2 billion between them in 2015.

With the industry booming, tenants are naturally mindful of whether their own situations can be improved alongside landlords’ incomes. From increasing landlord taxes to longer-term fixed rents, the AXA Tenant Survey asked renters which potential changes they think could benefit them – and the results varied between regions.

The most popular idea in London and Wales, with 43 and 32% of their respective votes, was rent controls tied to average incomes. This was only the joint-fifth most popular idea in Scotland, where low-interest loans for deposits and building more social housing (both 35%) were considered potentially more beneficial.

Getting on to the property ladder

Tenants were asked whether they were envious of people who owned their house. Most, it turned out, were – particularly in England’s southeast and southwest, where 70 and 73% of respective respondents admitted to feeling jealous of homeowners.

In Scotland and Wales, the proportions were both around 59%. In London – where, PwC has predicted, just 40% of residents will own their own home in 2025 – it was just over 67%. This is possibly because fewer people, compared to neighbouring counties, are seeing homeownership as a realistic target.

Many respondents, however, found some aspects of being a property owner undesirable. In Scotland the biggest turn off, according to over 41% of respondents, was having to keep up with mortgage payments – something that 53% of Welsh and 54% of London-based tenants empathised with.

Positive tenant stereotypes

These homeownership turnoffs were partly down to renters identifying with positive tenant stereotypes. A relatively high – and indeed similar – proportion of residents in Scotland, Wales and London identified with the “free spirit” and “non-materialist” labels.

Just over 9% of Scottish and London-based renters, meanwhile, consider themselves “ambitious” – a label that just over 3% of Welsh tenants felt they could relate to.

Reasons for renting

These stereotypes are usually backed up by a concrete reason for renting. Over one fifth of residents in Scotland, many of whom see themselves as “free spirits”, said that the freedom and flexibility of renting suited them better than owning a home – something that 15% of Welsh and 14% of London-based tenants agreed with.

People in all three nations, however, were most likely to rent because they were unable to get a mortgage, with more people in London and Wales choosing to actively save for one.

Property prices

According to Zoopla, the average property prices in London, Scotland and Wales as of September 2016 are £651,936, £181,161 and £176,444 respectively.

The AXA Tenant Survey revealed that many tenants know how much their rented property would cost to buy. Over 12% – the joint-highest proportion – of Londoners, for example, reckoned their home was worth between £500,000 and £700,000.

The picture was slightly different in Scotland, where fewer than 10% of respondents thought their property was worth between £150,000 and £200,000. Almost a third of Welsh respondents believed their home was worth between £100,000 and £150,000. 

No matter where landlords choose to build their property portfolios, it’s important for them to understand the laws and how the rental industry is regulated – whether centrally or regionally. For this reason, it’s vital they’re afforded the necessary protection, offered by AXA residential landlord insurance.

*AXA survey of 1000 tenants living in Great Britain, conducted in July 2016