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Levelling the playing field in the private rented sector

Private landlords in Scotland have seen remarkable change over the past ten years. We’ve grown in number, helping to house an ever-increasing percentage of Scotland’s population. In fact, Scottish private landlords now house more households in Scotland than local authorities, providing much needed investment in improving housing stock after other sources of funding dried up.

In response to this growth we’ve also been on an impressive journey of reform and professionalisation. From landlord registration, tenancy deposit protection, letting agent regulation right through to the formation of a new private tenancy, the context in which we operate is changing. The Scottish Association of Landlords has very much been at the forefront of this journey. And while many of us may have had our differences about the precise nature of this reform, we absolutely recognise the need to have a well-functioning private rented sector that provides tenants with safe, secure and stable homes.

But this must also work for landlords. We need to foster a stable environment for investing in the sector and to recognise the role of landlords in helping to solve Scotland’s housing crisis alongside housing associations, local authorities and other groups. One which ensures that we can raise standards and provides high-quality homes that tenants want to live in, at a price which represents value for money, while driving out the worst practices to create a level playing field for responsible professionals.

This is why it is more important than ever for private landlords and letting agents to play an active role in the debate over the future of the rented sector in Scotland. Whether by engaging with local authorities, central government and consumer organisations like Shelter Scotland, or by looking at whether we can improve professionalism through what we do best: hands-on practical initiatives. This means ensuring responsible landlords are aware of their legal responsibilities and given the opportunity to address any failings, as well as ensuring rogue landlords are driven out of the sector. It also means working with tenants to ensure they are aware of their own responsibilities as tenants and neighbours.  Ensuring this balance will lead to a more productive relationship in the future and help defuse tensions which can often arise through misunderstanding between tenants and landlords.

So I was pleased to be asked to share the Scottish Association of Landlords’ perspective at “Putting it into practice” – Shelter Scotland’s conference on the private rented sector. The event will be an opportunity to explore how big ambitions to improve the quality of private renting can be realised. There are sessions on good practice in the letting agent sector, what universal credit will mean for private tenants and landlords, as well sharing learning from practice-based projects from across Scotland.

So please join us in Edinburgh to take part in the debate and exchange views and experiences on how we can best ensure that the private rented sector provides high quality homes for the 330,000 private renter households in Scotland.

John Blackwood is the Chief Executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords. He is speaking at Shelter Scotland’s conference on private renting on the 14th of September at St Paul’s and St George’s church in Edinburgh.

There is a discounted rate for members of the Scottish Association of Landlords and the Council of Letting Agents, book here.