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In my role as Private Landlord Support Officer in Dundee, I work with many different landlords and Letting Agents.  The size of the portfolio and nature of their queries can vary greatly but whatever their circumstances, I am here to support them to be the best they can be.

I think it is important to stress that I wholly support ‘professionalising’ standards within the PRS.  I also passionately feel ‘rogue’ landlords and agents who are unwilling to meet their requirements and exploit their (often vulnerable) tenants should be driven out of the sector by tough, targeted enforcement, allowing their law abiding competitors to prosper.  This is only fair to those landlords who comply with their obligations and dedicate the necessary time and money to do so.

However, here is the perhaps more controversial statement – I do not feel that by ‘professionalising’ the sector we should marginalise or disenfranchise the small-scale ‘accidental’ landlords.  Landlords in Scotland typically comprise individuals, couples and families operating on a small scale basis. These are the largest demographic of landlords in Scotland, and with the current housing situation we rely on these landlords to provide good quality safe and affordable housing for many.  These landlords make a significant contribution to the economy and offer a variety of accommodation types in many diverse areas.

The Landlord who works full time and rents his one property out to a young couple with a baby in receipt of LHA may not deem themselves to be a ‘professional’ entrepreneurial landlord, but operates to a high standard and takes a genuine concern for their tenants and their wellbeing.  As with every sector, the use of terminology can be problematic.  In truth, no-one decides to become a landlord by ‘accident’, as this is obviously a decision that has been entered into.  However, to ‘professionalise’ the sector does not mean we should not nurture those for whom letting property is not their sole business.  We should instead support them to ensure they are meeting, and indeed exceeding their obligations.

The importance of the person-centric approach offered by many small-scale landlords as above should not be under estimated, as I have worked with several such landlords and their tenants who through various reasons have required an extra helping hand to sustain their tenancy.  This may have gone unnoticed if they were one tenant of many.

This is also demonstrated in Research for the Department for Communities and Local Government – from Julie Rugg and David Rhodes, known as the “the Rugg Review” (2008) “A number of suggestions have been made to increase levels of professionalism amongst PRS landlords. It is thought that increasing the numbers of corporate landlords or increasing the use of managing agents would effect better management standards. However, tenant satisfaction levels are not necessarily higher amongst tenants of larger landlords”.

As with the analogy of the corner shop versus the corporate supermarket, both options have their own strengths and both have their place in the market in which they operate.   The truth of the matter is, every landlord is as individual as their tenants and the support on offer should be tailored as such.  Regardless of the size of their portfolio or how they became involved in the business of letting property, what any landlord or agent should be judged on is the quality of their product – in this case their tenant’s home – and the quality of their service delivery.

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