An owner-occupier is a person who lives in a house that he or she owns. Owner-occupancy is therefore also called home ownership. This category of housing tenure is economically important for two reasons.
- In owner-occupancy, the landlord - tenant relationship is short-circuited. Consider two people, A and B, each of whom owns property. If A lives in B's property, and B lives in A's, two financial transactions take place - each pays rent to the other. But if A and B are both owner occupiers, no money changes hands, even though the same economic relationships exits; there are still two owners and two occupiers, but the transactions between them no longer go through the market. The amount that would have changed hands had the owner and occupier been different persons is called the imputed rent. The effect of owner occupancy is therefore that
- the imputed rents disappear from measures of national income and output, unless figures are added to take them into account.
- Government loses the opportunity to tax the transaction. Sometimes governments have attempted to tax the imputed rent (Schedule A of the U.K income tax used to do this), but this tends to be unpopular because most people do not understand the concept of imputed rent.
- In modern economies, variations in the rate of owner occupancy are a good index of the overall wealth of the nation, at least across time within a nation. Between nations, variations in traditions and in tax regimes make such comparisons hard to interpret.