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Paper 28th April 2003 - BESAC(03)7

BESAC(03)7 - Living Rent Free

A problem has been identified with the Census output in relation to Tenure categories. Now that we have some Census results, it has become apparent that a considerable number of people have ticked the box marked "Living Rent Free" on the Census form. This accounts for 3.5% of households in Scotland.

Similar data is not yet available for England and Wales. However, the Key Statistics report counts households living rent free together with those rented from an employer or family member or any other type of tenure. Together these amount to 3.2% of the total number of households in England and Wales. This compares with 4.3% of all households in the same categories in Scotland of which 80% are living rent free. It would not be unreasonable at this stage to suggest a similar proportion of the 3.2% might be living rent free in England and Wales.

It appears that people who are receiving Housing Benefit may have ticked this box. The way the Census forms were designed meant that all those who ticked a "rented" category box, including those living rent free, were then directed to the next question which asked them to specify their landlord. In the Census analysis, those who ticked that they rented their property have been analysed by their landlord so that most tables shows counts of those renting from a local authority, other social landlord or privately. However, those who ticked living rent free have not been further analysed so that their landlord can be identified, and in many tables they have been grouped with those who are renting privately.

GROS have run a special table for Scotland which shows the number of households who stated they were living rent free and the landlord which was selected in the second part of the tenure question. This shows that 54% rented from the local authority or Scottish Homes and a further 10% from a housing association or similar. This is shown in the following table.

Table 1

Landlord of those living rent free



Council, Local authority, Scottish Homes



Housing association or similar



Private landlord, letting agency



Employer of member of household



Relative or friend of member of household




A further check using table CAST05 for Scotland shows an increase in the proportion of the population claiming to live rent free with age, with the lowest rates being in the working age groups. This is what one might expect with a high proportion of Housing Benefit claimants being elderly. The results are shown in Table 2.

Table 2

Age group

Percentage of population living rent free





















A further check on the Output Areas in Falkirk which have the largest number of households living rent free, has identified these as frequently being in our Social Inclusion Partnership areas (SIPs) or areas where there is known to be a largely elderly population. This again reinforces the idea that these may be Housing Benefit claimants.

A further analysis, for the Falkirk Council area as a whole has shown that the Census recorded approximately 1,450 less council houses and 1,330 less Housing Association houses than we believe there were in April 2001. 2,311 houses were recorded as "living rent free" which would certainly account for a considerable proportion of the "missing" social rented houses. The tenure question has been somewhat problematic in previous Censuses, in particular in the private rented and housing association sectors, so it is likely that other problems with the way in which people have answered the tenure questions would account for any remaining discrepancies.

Census output

This possibility - that many people might misinterpret the question (which was a new category in the 2001 tenure question) - was not considered when the output tables were being designed. This has meant that the output tables were created on the assumption that those ticking the rent free box on the form would genuinely be living rent free.

This has had two consequences: firstly, the rent free category has been used as a tenure in its own right, rather than being sub-divided into the appropriate landlord categories and secondly, in may tables it has been included with the Private Rented category - wrongly in many cases as the results show.

Checking the output tables for Scotland shows the following:

Theme tables - all have "living rent free" as a specific tenure category.

Univariate tables - both have "living rent free" as a specific tenure category

CAS tables - the following tables group "living rent free" with all the private rented tenures:

CAS13, 17, 46, 47, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57, 60, 61


The following tables have "living rent free" as a separate tenure:

CAS 230, 231, CAST 01, 02, 05

Standard Tables - the following tables group "living rent free" with all the private rented tenures:

S13, 17, 46, 51, 52, 53, 56, 57, 60, 61, 63, 212, 242

The following tables have "living rent free" as a separate tenure:

S47, 49, 50, 55, 229, 230, 231

In no case is the "living rent free" category subdivided into its component landlords.

I have asked GROS to produce for me the breakdown shown above for Scotland in Table 1 for Output Areas, Wards and Falkirk Council area. This will however only supplement the overall tenure breakdown and will not provide cross tabulations of the full tenure breakdown to be found in the CAS and Standard tables. Once I have seen what the figures look like for my own area, I may commission further tables with the breakdown of the "living rent free" category into its appropriate landlord categories.

Source: General Register Office for Scotland

April 2003

Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer in Scotland

Author: Jennifer Boag, R & I Unit, Corporate & Commercial Services, Falkirk Council

Date: 23rd April 2003.