Scotland’s chance to lead the way for private renters

Today Ed Miliband set out the UK Labour party’s offer for private renters: long-term tenancies coupled with stable rent increase and no letting agent fees. This is in the same week that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighted the growing number of households in poverty renting privately; up from 1 in 10 in the early 2000s to a quarter today.

The Scottish Government has already put an end to private tenants being ripped off by sky-high letting agent fees, and the debate over the stability and predictability of private renting is now coming to the fore.

At Shelter Scotland we’ve long campaigned for the Scottish Government to Rethink Renting for the 305,000 households who rent privately, a quarter of whom are families with children. Security and stability are both reasonable and desirable characteristics of any home, and is something that should be afforded to the growing number of families in private rented accommodation.

Twenty years ago many of the current crop of people setting up homes and starting new families in the private rented sector would have quite reasonably expected to live in a secure and stable socially rented home, or been able to buy a modest home. The drop in the number of socially rented homes coupled with recent barriers to homeownership have put this out of reach for many – and, inevitably, the private rented sector is picking up the slack.

The remarkable growth in private renting is why we need to reform the way it works; away from unstable short-term agreements with unexpected rent hikes towards secure agreements and predictable rents. Like families twenty years ago, our new generation of private renters should also have the certainty that they can stay in their home for as long as they need: knowing that children will stay in the same primary school, and graduate to their local secondary school. They would also know that they’ll remain in contact with the same essential local services – GPs, dentists, care providers – and able to lay down roots and contribute to their communities. Of course landlords should still be able to get their property back if they needed to live in it themselves, sell it, or if their tenants aren’t meeting their side of the deal – and any new arrangement should reflect this.

Surely this simple vision is now within reach for Scotland’s renters: the Scottish Government’s strategy for the private rented sector laid out the intention to review the current short assured tenancy framework. The remarkable growth in the sector means that now and in the future the voice of the private renter will become increasingly important and could well be an important factor in future elections. This is the perfect opportunity to act, giving private renters a stable and secure footing on which to plan for their future and a firm stake in their communities.

Read our case for greater security for private tenants in Scotland.
Sign up to our campaign for the Scottish Government to Rethink Renting.

About the author

James Battye

James Battye

I manage Shelter Scotland’s Oak Foundation funded private rented sector project work. The project is focussed on increasing private tenants’ consumer voice in Scotland, supporting new initiatives to encourage best-practice amongst letting agents and working with private landlords in Dundee and Lochaber to improve standards.

  • Edward Harkins

    From a purely pragmatic perspective (and that of people in homelessness or at risk) our future housing policy should cater for a private rented sector that is: upscaled; well and *appropriately* regulated; providing a range of accommodation at reasonable rent; providing mid to long-term security; populated by reputable landlords; and therefore invested in by the financial institutions and money markets. That policy mix would require in return that private landlord companies and their investors to be granted tax incentives to underpin the commercial viability of such operations. The Germans do it why can’t thwe in the UK? (Admittedly a problematic question)