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Southern Rail strikes beginning to hit local lettings markets

A buy to let mortgage lender claims that five out of six areas affected by the long-running spate of strikes on Southern Rail have seen their rents fall - a sign that the dispute may be beginning to impact the housing market.

Landbay says the controversial dispute over driver-only operated trains - estimated to be hindering hundreds of thousands of passengers each day thanks to works-to-rule, overtime bans and all-out strikes - could also be damaging the desirability of areas of south east England. 

The strikes began in August, but the issues began affecting commuters in July when Southern Rail first implemented an emergency timetable. Comparing rental growth in the second half of the year to the first, the lender suggests landlords are having to either limit rent increases or cut rents, to meet dwindling levels of demand.

In Surrey, which hosts major Southern stations such as Guildford and Dorking, rents which were growing by 0.12 per cent in H1 fell by 0.02 per cent in H2. 

In East Sussex, home to Hastings station, rental growth slowed from 0.26 per cent to 0.15 per cent, while West Sussex saw a slowing from 0.24 per cent to 0.19 per cent. 

Kent - down from 0.27 per cent to 0.19 per cent - and the town of Milton Keynes, halved from 0.34 per cent to 0.17 per cent, also saw cooling in the second half of the year. 

The only area to see accelerating rental growth, a sign of strong tenant demand, was Brighton and Hove, which saw rents grow by 0.24 per cent in H1, rising to 0.26 per cent in H2.

Average rents across the whole south east region grew by 0.21 per cent over the six months from January to June, but slowed to 0.13 per cent in July to December. 

The region consequently went from seeing the second fastest rental growth over the last five years, to the seventh fastest, with only the north east and London exhibiting slower rental growth.

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