Why we need to create a more secure future for Scotland’s private renters…

It’s not just the growing number of people renting privately in Scotland that’s turning up the pressure for a change of culture within the sector, it’s also that the type of household relying on the sector is changing.

In particular, more and more families are now having to view private renting as a long-term solution to their housing needs – but the lack of security compounded by short-term tenancy agreements means that, for many, renting privately doesn’t truly allow families to feel settled in their own home.

The pressure for change can be seen in today’s data: the number of people renting privately has more than doubled in the past 10 years – 305,000 households now live in the sector – 12% of all housing in Scotland.

Traditionally, the private rented sector has been more closely associated with students and young professionals seeking short-term accommodation, not the large number of families we see today. But it now provides homes for around 80,000 families with children – families seeking to settle down, as the Scottish Government highlighted in their strategy for the sector: ‘A place to stay, a place to call home’.

While together these increases pose challenges for the private rented sector, they also present a big opportunity for positive change – a change that would address the inherent insecurity in the short assured tenancy.

What we need is to create a more open-ended tenancy that gives tenants the security they need over their homes.

Security is vitally important for families. Having a stable and secure place to live means support networks can remain intact and plans can be made for children’s education and healthcare.

That’s why at Shelter Scotland we’re campaigning for the Scottish Government to rethink renting. It’s high time that private tenants in Scotland had the security they need and deserve from the private rented sector.

The reasons for the increasing reliance on the private rented sector are clear – a major lack of social homes has led to a crisis and it has become increasingly difficult to secure a socially rented home – with hundreds of thousands on waiting lists across Scotland. Home ownership, too, has become increasingly difficult to access. Most people in their 20s and 30s may still aspire to own their own home, but the reality is that they are locked out of the market due to a mixture of stagnant wages, big deposits and high house prices.

Intended or not, the private rented sector has benefited by picking up some of this slack. So those households who ten or so years ago would be in the social rented sector, or looking to buy, are now renting in the private rented sector and, consequently, with far less security over their homes.

Tenancies in Scotland’s private rented sector vary from anything between the minimum of six months, to 12 or 18 months. This rigidity is not good for tenants, or landlords. What we want to see is a tenancy which guarantees that renters in the private sector will have a home for as long as they need.

It’s time we acted to ensure that renters in Scotland’s private sector have a safe and secure home – and moving from short, fixed-term security to open-ended, flexible tenancies is key to this.

Read ‘The case for enhanced security of tenure for private renters in Scotland’ paper