U.K. Home Rents Fall for First Time in Almost a Year, LSL Says

A gauge of U.K. residential rents fell for the first time in almost a year in December as landlords cut letting fees and cold weather deterred potential tenants from viewing properties, LSL Property Services Plc said.

The average monthly rent for a home in England and Wales fell 1.2 percent to 684 pounds ($1,087) from November, the first decline since January last year and the lowest average since July, the Newcastle, England-based company said in an e-mailed statement today. The average fee in London fell 2.3 percent. On the year, national rents rose 3.8 percent.

U.K. letting fees rose last year as prospective homebuyers were put off purchases amid concerns about the government’s budget squeeze and a dearth of affordable finance. Landlords, who have benefitted from a lack of properties to let as banks curtail mortgages for buy-to-let transactions, cut asking prices during the slower holiday season to avoid properties being empty, LSL said.

“The recent slowdown in rents is down to landlords’ pricing strategies” and “the added arctic weather temporarily dampened demand, deterring many renters from hitting the streets and viewing properties,” David Newnes, estate agency managing director of LSL, said in the statement. “Nevertheless, with the supply of mortgage finance to both first-time buyers and would-be landlords still constrained, we are likely to see rents re-start their upwards march before the spring.”

The number of new tenants registering for rental accommodation with Countrywide Plc surged 37 percent last year to more than 200,000, the country’s largest property broker said in an e-mailed report today. That’s the highest level since the company began keeping records in 2003.

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