Demand for privately-rented flats and houses has fallen to a two-year low, while the supply of properties to rent has risen in fresh evidence of a slowdown in the property market.
The Association of Residential Letting Agents said there were just 26 prospective tenants registered per branch in December, down from 32 the month before and the lowest figure recorded since records began in January 2015.
Meanwhile renters have more properties to choose from. Arla said the number of properties on the books of the typical letting agency branch rose from 185 to 188 on the month.
Rents have begun to flatten or fall in many parts of the UK, particularly London and the south, according to other survey data. Earlier this month property website Rightmove said asking rents in London fell 4.4% in 2016, with most of the fall happening in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.
In the south-east, rents rose 1.3% over the year, but fell 2.3% in the last quarter as the falls in London spread out to the commuter belt. The north-west of England recorded the worst rent rises, with tenants suffering an average 4.4% rise in the region during 2016, but fell in the last quarter of 2016.
Experts are divided on the outlook for rents in 2017. Many expect a slump in the buy-to-let market with lending criteria tightening ahead of the introduction of new taxes on the sector in April. But others say with few attractive alternatives, individuals will continue to invest in rental properties for their pension.