Six months is not a long time. It’s less than a football season; just longer than a school term and about as long as the gestation period for the largest type of bat. But under housing law it’s as long as you have security in your own home if you rent privately.
After six months, just when you’ve worked out how late you can leave it before heading out the house and still making it to work on time, your landlord can give notice to turf you out for whatever reason. And if you don’t think this happens then just wait till the Commonwealth Games come to Glasgow, where landlords will think they can make a quick buck, or ask around your friends and family. Insecurity in the private rented sector is a sorry fact of life.
The law that sets out the most common leasing agreement used in the private rented sector, short assured tenancies, was brought in by the government in the 1980s in an attempt to boost the rental sector. A lack of security for tenants was seen as being a necessary trade off to encourage landlords to rent out properties. Having to move home every few months wasn’t seen as a huge problem for a sector then regarded as being populated by students and young people.
Since then, however, the right to buy and a continuing lack of investment in building homes for social rent has meant that if you can’t afford a mortgage, and social housing isn’t available locally then your only option is a private let. This has changed both the number and type of person who is renting privately. We now see many more families and people for whom a lack of security in where they live creates a problem than was the case thirty years ago. In the past ten years the sector itself has doubled and surprisingly it is where the largest number of families with children who present as being homeless previously lived – more than any other sector or tenure.
If a six month lease with a rolling month to month contract wasn’t seen as being a problem for a student thirty years ago then it certainly is for a family now. Bringing children up when you don’t know where you’re going to be in six months time is hard enough but doubly so when your move might also involve them moving school or leaving behind friends and family support in the neighbourhood.
That’s why Shelter Scotland thinks it’s time to rethink renting. It’s time to ensure that we have a private rented sector that is fit for families and fair for all. Where as long as you pay your rent your home is yours for as long as you need it. And that’s why over the coming months we’ll be campaigning to make sure that politicians understand that it’s simply not acceptable for tenants and families to be forced to move on the whim of their landlord. Progressive and workable examples of better systems can be seen in many of our European neighbours including Germany, Spain, France and Ireland. It’s time we took a leaf out of their book and brought our renting legislation out of the 1980s and up to date.
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