The Government has just published the English Housing Survey for 2011-2012 and it makes an interesting read for anyone interested in the changing nature of the housing market. One of the most important sections covers the private rented sector. As most of us are aware, this has been growing in recent years and it is now at its highest level since the early 1990s. It is now as big as the socially rented sector at 3.8m households.

The survey found that in the private rented sector weekly rents continued to be well above those in the socially rented sector (£164 per week compared to £83). Mean rents have increased in both sectors since 2008-9, but private rents showed no significant change from 2010-2011. This may confirm what many of our landlord insurance clients have been telling us.

There is always a great deal of comment in the media about energy efficiency and the survey shows that the energy efficiency of the housing stock continued to improve. Between 1996 and 2011 the average SAP rating of a dwelling increased by 12 SAP points from 45 to 47. SAP ratings are shorthand for the Standard Assessment Procedure for Energy Rating of Private Dwellings. This is a way of measuring the energy used by items such as space heating and water heating and applying a formula to achieve a rating for each property.

The proportion of dwellings with damp problems has reduced from 13% in 1996 to 5% in 2011. Private rented properties were more likely than those in other tenures to experience damp problems, as they were more likely to be older stock.

Overcrowding was found in 7% of social renters and 6% of private renters.

In 2011-2012 around two-thirds of households were owner-occupiers.

Any landlord interested in an in depth look at the state of our housing stock would do well to visit the www.gov.uk site and study the survey.