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Spare bedrooms could earn homeowners £69bn a year

The English housing market is currently suffering a £69bn black hole with nearly 14m bedrooms sat unused across the country, according to flat sharing website easyroommate.co.uk.

Research carried out by easyroommate.co.uk shows there are currently at least 13.7m unused bedrooms in the households of England’s owner-occupiers.

If these bedrooms were to be rented to flat sharers or lodgers, using current average regional flat share rents, they could generate revenues of £69bn per year.   There are currently 7.7m household in the private rental sector in England generating rents of £68bn in rent per year. If the unused bedrooms within owner-occupied households were introduced to the market it could more than double the size of the sector.

Private Rental Sector Under Strain

For the first time since the 1960s there are now more people in private rental accommodation than there are living in local authority and social housing. The number of private housing rentals now stands at 3.84 million compared to 3.8 million for social housing rentals.   This growth has largely been driven by first time buyers struggling to raise a large enough deposit to secure a mortgage having to turn to the private rental sector over recent years. This is put a strain on the supply of rental accommodation and caused widespread growth of average monthly rent prices. Average flat share rents alone have risen 4% over the last year and now stand at £390 per month.

Jonathan Moore, director of easyroommate.co.uk, said: “The UK housing crisis is being exacerbated by the increasing pressure on the private rental sector. Demand consistently outweighs supply and average rents are rising as a result.   “However, the UK also has the issue of millions of homes across the country being under-occupied. Many within our ageing population are occupying property that is too big for their requirements. However, the moribund sales market of recent years has left many disinterested in selling-up and downsizing.   “Even if a fraction of the 13.7m unoccupied bedrooms were opened up to renters it would help ease the pressure being applied to the current levels of rental housing supply. The additional income this would generate for home-owners would also go a long way towards helping owners with the day-to-day cost of living and paying the bills.”

Regional Picture

London homeowners are missing out on the biggest pool of potential rent that could be generated if spare rooms were to be let out to lodgers and flat sharers. The capital has over 4m unoccupied bedrooms which could generate rents of more than £28bn pounds a year if they were let out for twelve months at the average London flat sharing rent (£580).    More homeowners might choose to rent out spare rooms if they were aware of the rent-a-room relief scheme. This government scheme allows homeowners to receive up to £4,250 gross income each year from lodgers tax free.  However, the relief level has not been updated since 1997 despite rents having risen.   If homeowners were to rent a room to a lodger for 12 months, those in London, the South East, East Anglia and the South West would generate income over the threshold. And this may be holding owners back from putting rooms onto the market.   Jonathan Moore, said: “It’s been sixteen years since the current rent-a-room relief threshold was implemented and since then it has never increased. This means that thousands of homeowners would fall outside the tax-free bracket if they were to rent a room for twelve months at the average local rate.   “Increasing the threshold would tempt more owners to into the market provide much needed accommodation to the private rental sector. Not only would this help ease the burden being placed on rental property, but the savings made by those renting in flat share or lodger accommodation can help build the deposit needed to climb on the sales ladder.”

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