Welcome to the fourth edition of our State of the Lettings Industry Report, featuring unique insights from 550 lettings professionals and 1,700 tenants from throughout the UK

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Breakdown of respondents

A cross-section of property professionals

While lettings-focused estate agents made up half of our respondents, those who also work on the sales side got in on the action. Private landlords and those in the build-to-rent sector helped to round out the respondents.

Breakdown of lettings respondents by region
Breakdown of tenant respondents by region

Almost a third of respondents still seeing increases in arrears


The number of lettings professionals reporting an increase in arrears over the past year has halved since our previous survey, from 64% to 32%. However, 48% of respondents reported that arrears had stayed at the same level over the past year, which would indicate that arrears are still higher than usual for many agencies and individuals.

There is no doubt about it: the pandemic has had a significant impact on rent arrears. We have seen a record number of cases where landlords are owed 12 months’ rent or more. I believe much of this was driven by the “fear factor”, where tenants were concerned about losing their jobs or being furloughed. However, now that the eviction ban has been lifted and the courts have reopened, landlords’ cases are being seen in more reasonable timeframes and the market is returning to normal.

Paul Shamplina - Founder of Landlord Action and Chief Commercial Officer for Hamilton Fraser

What has happened to rent arrears in your business over the past year?

Number of tenants missing rent or organising payment plans doubles


Four percent of tenants said they had missed some payments or organised a payment plan in the past year - double the number of tenants who said the same in 2020. However, the vast majority of tenants - 81% - said that the pandemic had not had any impact on their ability to pay rent in the past year.

It's encouraging to see so many tenants feeling confident about their income security, which is good news for landlords and letting agents alike. However, there are still some tenants who are struggling to make ends meet, who are worrying whether or not their income is secure. In the event legal action is needed, we are still seeing severe delays within the legal system elongating Rent Protection claims and, in some cases, financially crippling landlords whom don’t have adequate protection in place, reflecting the need for letting agents to communicate to their landlords the risk that still remains.

Oli Sherlock - Director of Insurance at Goodlord

Has the pandemic had any impact on your ability to pay rent?

83% see landlords leave sector in the past year


While some levels of attrition are to be expected in a normal year, almost half of respondents said more than 5% of their landlords had left the sector in the past year. More than a quarter - 28% - said between 5-9% of their landlords had left the sector and 14% said between 10-19% of their landlords had left.

I’ve spoken to many letting agents who are worried about the landlord exodus. Whilst the growth in the private rental sector is not as strong as it was in the first decade of the millennium, it will continue to grow. There have always been landlords cashing in on their portfolio, but the net effect will always be growth. The important thing is that letting agents must attract landlords from from other agents to their books and can only do that using modern marketing techniques.

Christopher Watkin - Helping letting agents attract new landlords

Has your business struggled with a lack of stock over the last year?

Shifting priorities after Covid-19


Winning more landlords remains a priority for lettings professionals, but finding new ways to generate revenue has taken on much more importance since our previous survey.

Currently, there are over 10,200 agency brands offering lettings and property management services. Our annual assessment of the majority of these concludes that the gap between the best and the average is widening - not just the gap between the best and the poor performers. For the best agents the outlook is bright but for those merely going through the motions, the days are numbered.

Peter Knight - Founder of Property Academy and Best Estate Agent Guide

What's your priority in the coming year?

55% of lettings professionals say abolition of section 21 will have a negative impact on the sector


Almost the same percentage of tenants - 54% - say that the end of section 21 - or so-called “no fault” evictions - will have a positive impact.

Reform is always controversial and so it is no surprise that the views of agents and tenants, on changing the current possession process and deposit protection operation are contrasting. For me the important element is how to deal with conflicts and disagreements, without tying up the legal system. Agents should see the changes as an opportunity to take the lead and provide their expertise to both landlords and tenants.

Sean Hooker - Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme

What impact will the repeal of section 21 have on the private rented sector?

Adoption of technology accelerates in the lettings industry


More than half of respondents - 53% - saying automation would accelerate in their businesses, though the majority - 36% - said this would have a limited impact on workforce reductions.

Covid-19 was a defining moment for proptech: Agents quickly established that part of their audience grew up with technology and not only embraces it, but expects it. Suppliers were quick to understand the process and worked alongside agents to develop actual solutions for genuine challenges. As a result, the very best agents now have a tech stack that has allowed them to create a completely digital journey and are able to reduce legislative risk, improve efficiencies and, importantly, improve the user experience by removing monotonous tasks.

Simon Whale - MD and founder of Kerfuffle

Which of the following statements best summarises the impact that you think technology and automation will have on your business?

Pandemic less influential on tenants moving than a year ago


Only 16% of tenants said they had moved or considered moving as a result of Covid-19 - a decrease of 11% on the previous year.

Talking about the UK as a single lettings market is always dangerous: it’s fair to say that, for many cities, the rumours of a mass exodus in the early stages of Covid-19 were accurate. While, many are now finding the rural lifestyle isn’t the idyll they first thought, there has been a shift in tenant priorities - location is not as important as it once was, especially with many now expecting a more flexible working environment.

Kristjan Byfield - Co-founder of the Depositary

Have you moved or are you considering moving as a result of Covid-19?