National HMO Lobby


National HMO

What is a HMO?
Local HMO Plans
Ten Point Plan


Leeds HMO Lobby

National Developments
Sustainable Communities
Use Classes Order
HMO Licensing
Taxation of HMOs
Students & Community

National HMO Lobby



Students in the Private Rented Sector
Briefing Bulletin

Selected from David Rhodes (University of York), The Modern Private Rented Sector, Chartered Institute of Housing (for Joseph Rowntree Foundation), October 2006

The study is based on data from the Census 2001.

History of the PRS The role of the private rented sector (PRS) in housing in the UK has changed enormously in the last century – from 90% of the stock a hundred years ago to 10% now [p8]. Four sub-sectors are identified – private landlords, employers, relatives, and ‘others’ [p4]. The PRS now fulfils five main roles – traditional (people who have been renting for years), easy access (young, mobile people – including students), employment, residual (those who can’t access social renting or owning) and escape (from social renting) [pp12-13].

Geography of the PRS Regionally, the PRS is largest in London (16%), and smallest in Scotland (8%) [p16]. In individual local authorities (LAs), it was large in London, of course, also in coastal towns (Brighton 22%, Blackpool 18%, Southampton 17%) and university towns, especially Oxford and Cambridge (22% each) [p21]. Most of the PRS (80%) is rented from private landlords. The proportion is highest in London, and in some coastal and university towns – for instance, Liverpool, Brighton, Manchester and Southampton (all 91%), Nottingham and Hull (89%), Blackpool and Leicester (88%) [p19].

Properties in the PRS Student accommodation in the PRS tends to be better quality than average – for instance, only 5.7% lacked central heating (compared with an average of 17.4% in the PRS) [p41].

People in the PRS “The PRS was clearly the most youthful of tenures.” 15% of all Household Reference Persons (HRPs, formerly ‘head of household’) were aged 16-24, compared with 4% of all households [p43]. “Not surprisingly, the greatest levels of private renting HRPs aged between 16 and 24 were frequently to be found in some of the principal university towns. There were eight local authority areas in which the proportion of such HRPs exceeded three-tenths of the entire sector: Leeds (34.2%), Durham (33.7%), Nottingham (32.8%), Sheffield (32.5%), Cardiff (31.4%), Aberdeen (30.7), Southampton (30.5%), and Newcastle upon Tyne (30.2%)” [p45].

“[Full-time students] were ... over-represented within the PRS (15.6%) [the figure for all tenures is 6.5%], and [not surprisingly] particularly within the ‘other’ type of landlord sub-sector (26.1%), which includes landlords that were higher educational institutions. There was also a relatively high proportion of full-time students renting from a relative or friend, which is likely to have included landlords that were parents of students as well as other students letting to their friends. Taking all students within the PRS together, the Yorkshire and Humber region stood out, with 22.4% of the people living in the sector classified as such. There were also relatively high proportions of full-time students living in the PRS within the North East (20.2%) and Scotland (21.5%)” [p46].

Households in the PRS “Students ... represent a key demand group for the private rented sector, and one which has grown in size substantially over recent years ... A large proportion of full-time students aged 18 and over were living in the parental home (37.8%). The next largest group of students were classified as living in the private rented sector (29.2%), which is likely to have mostly comprised students who were renting from a landlord or letting agent, as well as some renting from a friend or relative. Student halls of residence are included within the communal establishment category, within which 13.6% of all full-time students aged 18 and above were living. In essence, the communal establishments were probably privately rented in the great majority of cases, in that the landlord would have been a university of other higher educational establishment. Thus, such forms of accommodation are effectively ‘tied’ accommodation within the PRS, similar to the way in which accommodation can be employment-linked, in that it is not as a general rule publicly available (at least during term-times). Based on the assumption that the communal establishments were all private rented, grouping them with the other private rented students gives a proportion of 42.8% of the full-time students aged 18 or above who were probably private renters” [pp66-67].

“A number of local authority areas had particularly high concentrations of students living in the PRS, which can have a range of impacts on neighbourhoods, including a regenerative influence [sic]. The highest level was, by some margin, to be found in the district of Durham, where 57.1% of all people aged between 16 and 74 were classified ... as being full-time students. The second highest concentration was in the Sheffield district, where 48.9% of people living in the PRS were full-time students. Other areas with particularly high concentrations of students within the PRS were the districts of Welwyn Hatfield, containing the University of Hertfordshire (46.3%), Nottingham (46.1%), Newcastle upon Tyne (44.6%), and Stirling (44%) ... In contrast [to rural districts], full-time students formed higher proportions of the PRS in many of the urban districts of the UK, and especially in a number of principal university towns. Thus, in addition to Durham and Sheffield, there was a high proportion of students in Cardiff (43.8%), Leeds (41.9%), Oxford (41.8%), Manchester (38.1%), York (34.8%), Cambridge (34.3%), and Bristol (33.2%). A number of perhaps less expected areas were also in the top quartile, including Ceredigion, which although a generally rural area contains the University of Wales at Aberystwyth (43.8%); and Charnwood in Leicestershire, which contains the University of Loughborough (38.7%)” [p68].

Conclusions “The analysis confirmed that students represent one of the largest demand groups for private rented accommodation, clearly comprising a key dimension of the PRS role of easy access accommodation for the young and mobile. In terms of the census sub-sectors, they formed a large part of the open market part of the PRS, within which they often have important competitive advantages over other types of tenant. Many students were also in the beneficial position of living in ‘tied’ private rented accommodation that was being provided by their educational institution. The advantageous housing situation of students in these parts of the PRS has been discussed elsewhere (for example, Rugg et al, 2004). However, the analysis showed that students were also commonly renting from a relative or friend as well (such as their parents, other students, or other student’s parents), which is accommodation, like that provided by educational establishments, that may not have been available to the wider public. Thus, there would appear to be a further dimension to the housing advantage enjoyed by students in the PRS, with there effectively being a further ‘tied’ portion reserved for students who were renting from a relative or friend” [p76].

“Much of the geographical variation in the nature of the PRS found in this analysis suggests that the tenure was often responsive to local housing needs where there was a clearly defined niche demand. Examples of such niche markets in the PRS include the high concentrations of students in principal university towns ... The resurgence of the PRS in urban areas between 1991 and 2001 is suggestive of the responsiveness of the open market part of the tenure in particular, such as may have been relied on by the expanded number of students, ...” [pp77-78].

“Projections of future household growth ... tend to suggest that, based on the existing pattern of household composition within the PRS, there may be a healthy [sic] demand for private rented accommodation in the future, and particularly in the open market sector” [p78].

District: Number of PRS households / PRS as % of all households / Students as % of the PRS population

North East
Durham 3,028 / 8.7 / 57.1
Middlesborough 4,713 / 8.5 / 31.5
Newcastle upon Tyne 14,167 / 12.7 / 44.6

North West
Lancaster 9,010 / 16.1 / 31.4
Liverpool 25,640 / 13.6 / 30.4
Manchester 27,959 / 16.7 / 38.1
Preston 5,040 / 9.5 / 38.0

Yorkshire & Humber
Leeds 32,793 / 10.9 / 41.9
Sheffield 19,963 / 9.2 / 48.9
York 8,400 / 10.9 / 34.8

East Midlands
Charnwood 5,506 / 9.1 / 38.7
Leicester 14,774 / 13.3 / 30.8
Lincoln 4,400 / 12.1 / 37.3
Nottingham 16,999 / 14.6 / 46.1

West Midlands
Birmingham 37,311 / 9.5 / 27.7
Coventry 13,458 / 11.0 / 37.6
Stoke on Trent 8,380 / 8.1 / 29.5
Warwick 6,117 / 11.5 / 33.7

East of England
Cambridge 9,326 / 21.9 / 34.3
Norwich 7,662 / 14.0 / 29.6
Welwyn Hatfield 3,005 / 7.5 / 46.3

South East
Canterbury 7,956 / 14.3 / 39.1
Oxford 11,727 / 22.7 / 41.8
Portsmouth 12,254 / 15.6 / 30.5
Southampton 15,732 / 17.2 / 43.1

South West
Bath 8,987 / 12.6 / 32.2
Bristol 22,963 / 14.2 / 33.2
Exeter 6,901 / 14.8 / 37.2

Aberdeen 9,924 / 10.2 / 37.9
Dundee 7,830 / 11.7 / 42.0
Edinburgh 27,686 / 13.5 / 36.1
Glasgow 22,585 / 8.3 / 31.2
Stirling 3,195 / 9.0 / 44.0

Cardiff 14,660 / 11.9 / 43.8
Ceredigion 5,479 / 17.7 / 43.8
Swansea 8,908 / 9.4 / 36.8

Northern Ireland
Belfast 14,608 / 12.8 / 27.0
Coleraine 2,583 / 12.0 / 35.0

Visit the Joseph Rowntree Foundation website for a Summary or the full study, at

National HMO Lobby, October 2006


National HMO Lobby
email: website: