Blog: 10 politicians, 4 volunteers, 3 towns, 2 shops and a whole load of coffee
By Fiona King at Shelter Scotland
I have a bit of sympathy (just a little) with General Election candidates, pounding the streets the length and breadth of the UK begging, persuading or shoring up their vote. Shelter Scotland was set up as a campaigning charity more than 45 years ago and we’re never happier than when we’re out and about speaking with people. But it can be tough. In the past 6 months we’ve been out in the snow, the rain and even some sunshine asking for people to join with us to Make Renting Right.
We’ve spent the last 6 months speaking with politicians, national and local organisations and more importantly people across Scotland and the response has been great. Tenants AND landlords have told us they want to see a sector that works for everyone and allows people to make a positive choice in the private rented sector.
We know that more and more people now rent in the private sector – it is home to more than 312,000 households currently and the number of families with children renting privately has more than doubled in the last 10 years. Privately owned rental accommodation is an absolutely critical part of Scotland’s housing mix, but the current tenancy is too insecure for people who want a settled home. We want to see a private tenancy which gives tenants stability and predictability while balancing the rights and responsibilities of landlord and tenants, allowing the sector to grow and respond to changing demands.
And of course there is some nervousness from private landlords, but we are embracing those discussions and addressing their fears constructively head on. Nothing in the Scottish Government’s proposed reforms would stop a landlord reclaiming their property if they wanted to sell or move back in. And, after all, what could be more appealing to good landlords than a long term tenant paying their rent regularly?
So in the past week, we’ve been to Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy and St Andrews and we’ve heard from people who face a range of problems – poor repairs, unexpected rent hikes, very short notice periods and in some places very high rents. We will work as hard as we can to ensure that forthcoming reform can start to address some of these issues.
This legislation is not a panacea to all issues in the private rented sector or the housing crisis Scotland currently faces. We still need to address the chronic under supply of social housing across Scotland which is inextricably linked to the problems in the private rental market. And there is still a need for further work on how we effectively tackle very high rents – but what is being proposed is another huge step forward on the road to meaningful reform.