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Untitled Document
Private Rented Markets

Created 2008


Aideen Hayden
University College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
Paddy Gray
Centre for Research in Property
School of the Built Environment
University of Ulster
Northern Ireland


Central Theme

The Private Rented Markets Working Group was first proposed at the ENHR Conference in Ljubljana in 2006. It was formally approved as a full working group by the ENHR Coordination Committee for the Dublin ENHR Conference in July 2008.

The purpose of this group is to provide opportunities to present papers on private rented housing markets. The research themes include:

  • Characteristics of rental markets in Europe, USA and Asia-Pacific
  • Private rented housing as a means of social inclusion
  • Low income households and private rented markets
  • New immigrant communities and private rented accommodation
  • Dynamics of the relationship between private and social rented sectors
  • Private rented sector as a means of promoting social mix
  • Residential property management
  • Landlord behaviour and decision-making
  • State regulation of private rented markets
  • Dispute resolution between landlords and tenants
  • Housing benefit and private rented markets
  • Licensing of HMOs
  • Minimum dwelling standards and enforcement
  • Design standards for apartment complexes
  • Supply of private rented accommodation

The working group also provides an opportunity for the discussion of associated themes – for example, housing finance, housing and minority ethnic groups, legal aspects of housing land and planning – and engages in joint working group sessions with other working groups to advance expertise on common themes. 

The working group holds an annual conference in Spring followed by workshop sessions at the ENHR main conference in June/July. Spring conferences have taken place in Dublin, York, Granada, St. Marienthal (Germany), Oxford, Derry and London. The working group has also published papers in a special edition of the International Journal for Housing Policy.

Past activities:
The Private Rented Markets working group met in Lyons in June 2017 and held a workshop looking at the concept of Rent. While the theme was set to encompass the widest possible definition of the subject matter, there was evident interest from the papers presented in the area of rent control measures undertaken or under discussion in a number of jurisdictions. Papers were also presented looking at the impacts of shortage of rental accommodation, common in a number of jurisdictions evidenced in the emergence of issues such as overcrowding and poorer standards of accommodation.
Our sincere thanks to Loic Bonneval and ENS Lyon for hosting the event and organising a very interesting walking tour looking at a wide variety of housing private, private rented and social. The opportunities offered by regeneration to introduce mixed tenure housing into mono tenure areas, with a focus on affordable rental, was also an interesting feature of the tour.
The Group also held a workshop in Tirana in September where we had a wide range of presentations focussed on the theme of the conference, Affordable Housing for All. We had contributions from Norway, Hungary, Germany, Turkey, Croatia, Italy, Taiwan as well as Ireland and the UK. The wide range of papers led to an interesting discussion but common themes included the high cost of housing for tenants in the private rented sector compared to other tenures and the lack of regulation of the sector in countries where the sector is emerging.
Our thanks to Julie Rugg who acted as coordinator of the group for a number of years for her contribution, in particular to the Lyon meeting. Julie has stepped down and has been replaced by Professor Paddy Gray who organised the 2016 Plenary in Belfast and who has written extensively on the PRS.


17-18 March 2016
Seminar on ‘Security and Stability in the Private Rented Sector’
Centre for Urban Studies, Amsterdam

This seminar was kindly hosted by Richard Ronald at the Centre for Urban Studies, University of Amsterdam.

The theme centred on the nature and extent of security and stability in the private rented sector, including the supply of private rented housing, tenancy termination and evictions, dispute resolution between landlords and tenants, prevention of homelessness, the role of rent regulation, and State provision of income/welfare supports.


29 June – 1 July 2015
ENHR Conference ‘Housing and Cities in a time of change: are we focusing on people?’
Lisbon, Portugal

This well attended workshop also included a joint session with the East European Housing and Urban  Policy Working Group. Our thanks to József Hegedüs for promoting this discussion and to conference organiser João Carvalhosa for facilitating both working groups to come together.

The main topics of the papers presented were:

  • Rent regulation. The principal subject matter of the papers presented were the revised rent regulation measures being introduced in various countries (e.g. Germany) and the discussions that are taking place regarding the possible introduction of rent stabilisation measures in other jurisdictions (e.g. England, Scotland, Ireland).  The focus on regulating rents between tenancies as well as rent increases within tenancies was discussed. The need to avoid negative side effects, especially when it comes to the supply and standards of accommodation was seen as critical.
  • Welfare reform.  A number of papers examined the link between housing and welfare reforms, especially in the UK and Ireland. Some landlords are exiting the low income segment of the market due to cuts in welfare payments, while others are adopting more pragmatic or sometimes ‘black market’ approaches. Welfare cuts have placed low income tenants at greater risk of homelessness, leading to displacement from the lower end of the market and increased difficulty in accessing accommodation.  This has led to calls for greater protections for families and to some State alleviation measures (e.g. case-by-case increases in support for those at risk) but this has not prevented an overall increase in homelessness.
  • PRS development in Central and Eastern Europe.  The PRS has dramatically decreased in most former socialist countries. The housing systems and PRS have been developing in different ways, showing signs of convergence in some aspects and divergence in others. Many countries leave negotiation open to landlords and tenants, with little in the way of legal protection or access to dispute resolution. The lack of regulation has inhibited professional investors and the market is dominated by small-scale landlords. However, supply has been increasing due to demographic trends and interest from individual investors.


8 May 2015
Workshop on Ireland - Spain Housing Markets 
Joint event with the Housing Chair, Universitat Rovira I Virgili (URV) and the School of Real Estate and Construction Economics, Dublin Institute of Technology

This information sharing event brought together experts in housing law, regulation and policy from Spain and Ireland to share their knowledge and experience with members and supporters of the ENHR Working Group on Private Rented Markets and Housing Chair URV. Participants included senior housing experts and policy-makers as well as tenant representatives and academics. Special thanks to Professor Sergio Nasarre Aznar for hosting this unique and highly successful workshop.
Ireland and Spain share many of the same factors that led to their respective housing crises today, including high economic growth in the 1990s and 2000; construction booms that accounted for around 20 percent of Spain and Ireland’s economies; growing populations that generated demand for new homes; tax incentives for property developers and new home buyers; and exceptional house price inflation driven by easy access to credit.
Ireland has a more regulated private rented sector than Spain. Whereas Ireland established a comprehensive regulatory framework in 2004, civil society groups and political parties are vocal in demanding improved tenants’ rights in Spain. Housing academics have sought better data and information on the profile of the PRS in Spain. The main problems that have emerged in Ireland’s PRS during the crisis are the lack of regulation of rent increases, leading to ‘economic evictions’ in high demand areas, and the poor enforcement of accommodation standards. 
The social housing sector represents just 2% of housing in Spain, whereas in Ireland it is close to 10%. Low income households in Spain have relied on the PRS to meet their housing needs. During the EU/IMF bailout programme, Ireland’s ability to invest in social housing was constricted and this has driven up demand for PRS accommodation from those who would have traditionally accessed the social housing sector. As in Spain, those who would have previously accessed home ownership in have also generated more demand for private rented accommodation.
In Ireland, popular concern about the loss of family homes has led to measures being put in place that stop short of the repossession of residential properties, including a moratorium on individual repossessions and various forms of loan restructuring. For those with unsustainable mortgages, a new personal insolvency regime has been put in place and measures such as mortgage-to-rent enable families to rent their formerly mortgaged home. In response to supervisory resolution targets, banks initiated legal demands against about 4 percent of mortgage accounts in 2014.
In Spain, the scale of home repossessions has been much higher. Unlike Ireland, no measures to limit foreclosures were taken at the outset and limited protections only commenced in 2012. Property prices generally fell by up 50-60% in Ireland, whereas negative equity was less widespread or severe in Spain. This meant that lenders’ claims were have often been fully satisfied by repossession. Lenders transferred foreclosed assets to separate management companies, who were required to sell a proportion annually. As in Ireland, lenders have provided mortgage-to-rent conversions which allow families to remain in their homes.


19-20 March 2015
Seminar on ‘Private Renting After the Crisis’
London School of Economics, Lincoln’s Inn Fields

This very well-attended seminar brought together 35 housing academics and experts from Europe, North America and Asia to deliver papers on the state of the private rented sector after the Global Financial Crisis. The event was kindly hosted by Professor Christine Whitehead from the London School of Economics.

The main subjects of papers presented and discussed were:

  • Affordability and Supports. The economic crisis has led to increase demand from those who would have traditionally accessed other housing tenures. This has generated more reliance on State housing and income supports to access the PRS. But austerity measures implemented by Governments have limited the amount of support available (e.g. bedroom tax in Britain) and this is putting lower income households at increased risk of becoming homeless.
  • Rent regulation. Countries that have a strong history of rent regulation (e.g. Germany, France) have introduced revised measures that seek limit rent increases in high demand urban areas, whereas countries that have little recent history of rent regulation are considering rent stabilisation measures as a way of addressing unaffordable rents. A first analysis of the revised regulations in Germany provoked discussion on the most desirable characteristics of rent regulation measures with regard to protecting tenancies and limiting any impact on future supply.
  • Legal framework and enforcement. The legal frameworks for the private rented sector across a range of jurisdictions was discussed, especially the mechanisms in place to enforce landlords’ and tenants’ rights by means of the civil and criminal Court system, by quasi-judicial bodies, local authorities or other means. The relative advantages and disadvantages of these different approaches was examined, especially with regard to the expertise and knowledge of enforcement bodies, resources available for enforcement, and ease of access to justice for those seeking the resolution of disputes.


1-4 July, 2014
ENHR Conference, ‘Beyond Globalisation. Remaking Housing Policy in a Complex World’ 
Edinburgh, Scotland

The Private Rented Markets Working Group hosted a successful workshop at the ENHR conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. A total of 25 people attended the workshop, with 11 papers presented by participants from 9 countries. Our sincere thanks to conference organiser, Mark Stephens, for his support and assistance.
A number of themes were clearly identifiable from the papers and discussion:

  • The growth and re-emergence of the private renting tenure and its sustainability relative to other tenures;
  • Rental affordability and the role of rent stabilising measures including new forms of rent control, to underpin security of tenure in rising rental markets;
  • The role of purpose-built private rented housing and the emergence of a new-build private rental sector, for example, driven by not-for-profit housing associations in England.
  • Research methodologies that may be utilised to collate the views, experiences and treatment of tenants living in the private rented sector and wider issues concerning how the tenant voice is heard and the role of tenant representation.


20-21 March, 2014
ENHR Private Rented Markets Conference
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

This successful conference was hosted by Jens Lunde at the Copenhagen Business School with the support of Realdania. The theme of the conference was 'The Future of Private Renting in Europe’. The conference was attended by 18 participants from Denmark, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Belgium, Spain, Germany, France and Canada, with 11 papers presented over two days.
In line with the theme of the conference, a number of policy and research threads were identifiable:

  • The challenges and opportunities in financing the supply of additional private rented accommodation and retention of existing stock in a climate of austerity. The role of measures to promote purpose-built private rented housing, institutional investment including REITs, and national subsidies specific to PRS were discussed. Despite the potential of such policies, the short-term contribution may be marginal. Owning, letting and the demand for second homes and the value of embedded rental options within owner occupied homes were also examined.
  • The complexity of new and ongoing regulatory challenges for the private rented sector. These include rent regulation and the emergence of new rent control measures in a number of European countries due to supply shortages and rising rents in urban centres; tenant selection by landlords/agents and measuring discrimination in the private rental market, and the regulation of dwelling standards in houses of multiple occupation.
  • Making international comparisons of the PRS. Comparisons of the PRS are difficult to frame correctly but at present they are important in evidencing changes in the PRS in Europe since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). From the comparisons presented, there is little evidence of a common pattern and many changes are path dependent within an individual country. The implications are that countries should exercise caution in making policy transfers.

Policy implications
The profile of those living in the PRS is changing with more families and middle income groups now residing in the sector. Low income families that have been excluded from the social rented sector are particularly vulnerable due to insecurity of tenure and rising rents in high demand urban areas. This poses a regulatory challenge for countries that have a history of low regulation or deregulation of the private rented market, in terms of security of tenure, rent regulation, and establishing minimum dwelling standards for private rented accommodation.
The suitability of existing models of income, welfare and housing supports, many of which originated in the 1970s to support tenants who cannot meet their housing costs from their own means, needs to be re-assessed. This is especially in light of the increased reliance by Governments on the private market to meet the housing needs of low income households. In many cases, these schemes are considered to operate in an outdated and bureaucratic manner that is not aligned with the modern PRS. Welfare reforms implemented in the wake of the GFC means that the level of support provided is often not sufficient to meet market rents and the affordability of social housing supports delivered in the private rented sector needs close examination. 
The GFC and the volatility generated in the PRS by the number of small-scale investors who came into the market to make capital gains and who are now in considerable mortgage arrears is a significant policy challenge. The repossession of buy-to-let properties on behalf of financial institutions is often regarded as ‘victimless’ as the mortgage holder is not the occupant of the property; much more consideration needs to be given to the circumstances of tenants affected by receiverships and repossessions. In this respect, PRS regulation needs to extend its influence beyond landlords and tenants, to include letting agents, managing agents, receivers of buy-to-let properties and financial institutions.
About one-third of European citizens depend on rental housing. The potential role of European Union law and policy has been examined in a number of recent European-wide projects examining tenancy law, housing policy and the nature and scope of evictions across Europe. The absence of common European definitions for basic terms - such as ‘landlord’, ‘tenant’, ‘deposit’ - needs to be addressed, as well as exploring the feasibility of establishing common principles of good ‘tenancy regulation’.