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Demand for rental accommodation surges across the UK, but falls sharply in London

Demand for rental accommodation surges across the UK, but falls sharply in London

Despite COVID restrictions, the UK is experiencing a surge in demand for rental properties in almost all regions. Data from February 2021 shows double digit increases in demand, compared to the same period in 2020, in dozens of UK towns and cities. The notable exception is London, where demand is down by up to 43%.

Demand across the UK

Despite a global pandemic and multiple lockdowns, renters are still moving – and all key towns and cities in the country (bar London) are seeing increased demand. Ipswich (86%), Warrington (84%) and Northampton (82%) lead the way, showing that it’s not simply a case of renters moving out of London to nearby commuter towns, but a wider demand surge across the country.

The table below lists the key UK towns and cities, and shows how rental demand has increased in each from 2020-21.


How demand has changed in London

It’s a different picture in London, however, where demand has plummeted across the capital.

The West Central region has seen the biggest decrease in demand – down -43% year on year, with East Central close behind at -39%. Even East London, the capital’s traditional hotbed for young renters, has seen a drop of 19% compared to 2020.

The table below shows each London region, and how rental demand has decreased in each from 2020-21.


SpareRoom’s Q4 2020 rental index showed that London rents were also down 8% from Q4 2019 – making this the third consecutive quarter than London rents have fallen.

This dramatic downturn in demand reflects the mood of London’s renters and how their priorities have changed since the start of the pandemic. The first national lockdown seemed to make young renters think twice about living in cities, and job losses coupled with the rise of remote working have seen many up and leave the capital.

The boom in demand outside of the capital, however, illustrates a potentially more permanent shift in how we live and work. It’s no longer essential for people to live in London to work in some industries, so the rise of remote working has given renters the chance to move to cheaper towns and cities.

While this change in the UK’s rental map could be bad news for our capital city,at least in the short term, it could also mark the start of a UK economy that doesn’t rely so much on London – which could be a positive thing for both renters and landlords.

SpareRoom’s Rental Index is released every quarter – you can access previous indexes here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about this and how the change in demand has impacted you – please share your story with us.

Image credit: @enbaeshoots.