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As we edge closer to the Scottish parliamentary elections on the 5th of May how should political parties deliver tangible change for the 330,000 households renting privately across Scotland?

To raise the game in Scotland’s private rented sector we believe the Scottish government needs to take action in three key areas:

  • Deliver secure tenancies for private renters
  • Ensuring enforcement action is taken against landlords who fail to meet expectations
  • Empowering private tenants to take action themselves


Delivering secure tenancies

One of the new government’s early priorities should be to ensure it delivers genuine security of tenure for private renters, meeting the key ask of our Make Renting Right campaign. Certainty about where you’ll be living long term should no longer be an alien concept to private renters, and greater certainty go some way towards mitigating against the negative double-impact of insecure employment and insecure housing. This is why Shelter Scotland strongly support the new private rented tenancy, due to be introduced in Scotland from late 2017. Crucial to this legislation’s success is, of course, effective implementation. This should involve wide-ranging promotion and training aimed at landlords, letting agents and private tenants, all of which must take place well ahead of the target date for introduction. Widespread knowledge and awareness raising – particularly among tenants of their new rights – will be what ensures the new tenancy is complied with, and that tenants are elevated to the status of being the empowered and informed consumers they should be.

Enforcement

Both central and local government should take a critical look at local authority administered landlord registration. Is it delivering against its objectives? Can we think more creatively about using the system to drive up standards across the whole of Scotland? Landlord registration’s purpose was restated in the Scottish government’s strategy for the sector, with particular emphasis placed on “ensuring that landlord registration enforcement action is targeted on tackling the worst landlords in the sector”. We welcome this, but we need to assess whether extra resources and powers are needed for local authorities, and how we can work more effectively across the public sector to ensure that the poorest elements of the landlord sector are made to up standards, or forced out of the sector entirely.

Tenant empowerment

Of course even if private tenants’ rights are strengthened many will still need support to challenge landlords’ poor practices. We are expecting a new tribunal to take all private rented sector cases from December 2017. This should provide an easier route than the sheriff court – especially in ensuring landlords comply with deposit protection regulations. The Scottish government should ensure that this forum is as open and accessible as possible, with advice, assistance and representation made available where needed. Enforcement of private rented sector regulation and tenant empowerment should also form part of government’s thinking in moves to create a dedicated consumer protection body for Scotland.

It is along the lines of these three key themes that the next Scottish government should align their early priorities on private renting. If these are delivered on then the next Scottish Government would be well on its way to making renting right in Scotland.

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