Blog: Why we need to Make Renting Right
By Adam Lang, head of communications & policy at Shelter Scotland
Shelter Scotland believes that the proposed reforms to the Private Rented Sector (PRS) tenancy that the Scottish Government is due to bring forward later this year represent a positive and progressive step forward and are sorely needed. We have been surprised, however, by some of the criticism that has been brought forward to this proposed legislation by some organisations in the sector.
Reform to the PRS is long overdue, but it isn’t just about particular issues such as rogue landlords, high rents in Aberdeen or festival lets in Edinburgh. This is about a well-researched, considered change to a tenancy regime that is currently failing far too many people across the whole of Scotland.
Currently, the tenancy that governs this sector in Scotland is based on an outdated model from when it was a sector that primarily provided short term accommodation for students and transient workers. This is no longer the case.
In Scotland today, there are around 312,000 households that call the PRS home, a figure which has doubled in the last ten years as a result of our wider housing crisis and lack of social rented properties in Scotland. Of this total number, 80,000 households in the PRS are families with young children.
It is easy to understand the need for reform in this area when we look at the numbers of people who have come to us for help from the PRS in recent years:
- 46 per cent of all calls to our free national helpline in 2014 were from the PRS
- The proportion of homeless applications from households renting in the private sector has grown from 13 per cent (7,569) in 2008-09 to 18 per cent (6,382) in 2013-14.
- Though this coincides with a growth in the number of households renting in the sector, the proportion of homeless applications is still disproportionate to the number of privately renting households, which in 2013 stood at 13 per cent of all households in Scotland
- Homelessness and the private rented sector trend:
It is against this backdrop of more and more people struggling to keep their home in the private rented sector that Shelter Scotland very much welcomes the Scottish Government’s proposals to legislate to reform the tenancy that governs the PRS. It is also why we have been taking our Make Renting Right campaign across the country to raise awareness and gather support for our key asks in relation to these reforms.
Central to the current lack of security of tenure that this legislation would seek to address is the ‘no fault ground for possession’ – which allows landlords to bring a tenancy to an end without providing a reason. This can be a huge shock to tenants who will have established roots in their communities, have children in local schools and are near to local support networks. The sense of insecurity in private renting is compounded by the fact that many tenants are afraid to insist upon essential repairs being done for fear that, if they complain, they will be asked to leave their home.
Crucially, the Scottish Government’s proposed reform will increase security of tenure by ensuring that private landlords have a genuine reason for needing the property back before ending the tenancy – for example, they need to live in the property, sell it or the tenant has broken the tenancy agreement.
This is an essential and common-sense rebalancing of the rights of landlords and tenants. Instead of being able to end a tenancy agreement on a whim, landlords will have a set procedure to follow and tenants will be empowered as consumers to ensure they are getting a fair deal from private renting. The knowledge that their landlord cannot just simply end a tenancy without reason will put families – especially those with children – on a stronger footing, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be asked to leave at short notice.
Across Scotland there are more than 150,500 people on waiting lists for a home, more than 4,000 children will wake up without a home tomorrow and nearly 30,000 people were assessed as being homeless last year. While the forthcoming PRS reforms won’t by any means solve all of Scotland’s housing problems, they will hopefully be an important step towards a rebalancing of rights that will provide a growing number of tenants and families with security and stability by protecting them from arbitrary eviction.
Head over to the campaign page to sign up as a supporter and see who else thinks it’s time to make renting right. You can also follow along the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #rentingright.