“IDEALLY,” WROTE George Orwell in “The Road to Wigan Pier”, his account of pre-war poverty, “the worst type of slum landlord is a fat wicked man, preferably a bishop, who is drawing an immense income from extortionate rents. Actually, it is a poor old woman who has invested her life’s savings in three slum houses, inhabits one of them, and tries to live on the rent of the other two—never, in consequence, having any money for repairs.”
When Orwell was writing, almost 60% of Britons rented their homes from private landlords. After the second world war the private rental sector (PRS) shrank to insignificance, thanks to the rise of social housing and the subsequent liberalisation of mortgage lending. But rising house prices and the need for a substantial deposit have reversed the trend (see chart).
As renting has grown, renters have changed. Back in the mid-1990s around one in
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