“An Englishman’s home is his castle” is a well-known maxim that, in general terms, means that people liked to own their own home because it was a secure and personal safe haven and could do what they liked within its walls without outside interference. This went back to 17th Century common law that, essentially, decreed “no one may enter a home unless by invitation”.
Anyway, enough of the history lesson, a home is still very important and personal in the 21st Century but the maxim is outdated (for a number of fairly obvious reasons!) and not just because the gap between owning and renting is increasingly narrowing; because of availability, the cost, personal circumstances, and by straight choice.
As the “rent generation” grows it occurred to me that, comparatively, renting in the UK remains very much in the realms of a private cottage industry.
In the United States and Germany, for example, the rental market is quite different. There, it is made up mainly of corporates, who have built and own the properties, then rent them out and maintain them professionally. Here, approximately 1% are owned and rented out by institutions, which is incredibly low. The remaining 99% are managed and let by private landlords, with nigh on 90% carrying out this role on a part-time basis and not professionally. To some extent this can explain – and not to disparage wholesale whatsoever – why it can often take so long to get things fixed or other issues dealt with. It may also account for why there is, or can be, such a disparity in the quality of properties and facilities too.
The corporates construct to a certain quality and specification to meet their particular “target audience”. For example, when Travelodge build they do it in a “modular fashion”, almost like (and I honestly don’t wish to sound rude) storage containers linked together. But that is because it is specifically designed to be budget but comfortable and functional, as it is only meant for short-term stays. If it was Hilton then, of course, it would be a different ball park in design and level of service altogether.
I don’t have the ultimate answer about why this is the state of rental affairs in the UK, merely prompting the question as to why corporates don’t invest in the property market in the private rental sector? I don’t intend to be exclusionary or favouriting, but the likes of Hilton and Travelodge – who are very successful big corporations – could do this professionally, aiming at their particular market and offering a further and enticing choice for renters; and at the same time potentially lucrative to themselves.