Only 66% of homes are owned by those who live in them compared with a peak of 71% nine years ago, says new figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
One of the main drivers of the strong demand for rental property continues to be would-be buyers who have moved to the lettings market after struggling to find mortgage finance, or first-time buyers unable to meet lenders' deposit requirements.
The Department for Communities and Local Government reported that just 10% of homeowners are now aged under 35.
The number of people renting from private landlords (rather than a council or housing association) has soared.
The combination of strong tenant demand and a limited stock of good quality properties on offer is pushing rents ever higher across much of the country. This is the case both for houses and flats.
All this presents a strong argument for taking on a buy-to-let investment.
If you are considering dipping a toe into buy-to-let for the first time you need to research carefully before taking the plunge.
Focus on researching the local market to find a bargain property with the potential for high yields and capital appreciation.
Search out a property that is different in some way and that in a good location with good access to local amenities and facilities. Also ensure it has good transport links.
The key to buy-to-let, whether an experienced investor or complete beginner, is making sure the sums add up.
The aim of a buy-to-let landlord is for the income from your rental investment to cover or exceed your mortgage payments.
Also bear in mind that you can offset some of the tax payable on the income from your rental on outgoings such as estate agent fees and furniture costs.
Last year saw accelerated competition in the buy-to-let mortgage market which should open up more options for landlords, new and existing. Criteria is less strict and lenders are allowing smaller deposits.
For existing landlords, many are looking to remortgage existing properties in order to free up cash to add to their portfolios.
Recent research from Moneyfacts showed that there were now twice as many buy-to-let home loans in the market as there were two years ago, and this competition has driven down prices. The average rate charged is now 4.79%, compared with 5% this time last year and 5.31% two years ago.
Remember, buy-to-let properties are not suitable for everyone and are not without risk. Despite rising rents, these are likely to be high-risk investments if their finances are largely reliant on one property.
"This means they risk potential capital losses, periods without a tenant and if they have a mortgage they may be at the behest of interest rate rises.”
Don’t forget to think about insurance as ordinary home insurance does not cover rental properties. Even those who take out a specialist landlord's insurance policy may find that it is not as comprehensive as they expect.
The downside of high rents is that tenants are becoming increasingly stretched and could fall behind with their payments.
The "rental cover" element of landlords insurance often only reimburses lost rent for periods when a property is uninhabitable because of another event that is covered by the insurance, such as a fire.