Guest blog from Neil McInnes, Director, Umega Lettings.
For almost ten years, I’ve been a letting agent and property manager in Edinburgh. During this time, I’ve been responsible for thousands of professional and student tenancies and I’ve kept a close eye on the significant changes that have been happening in the Private Rental Sector (PRS) in Scotland.
It’s a fascinating time to be working in the PRS with everything that has happened over the last few years from landlord registration to the tenancy deposit scheme. From my perspective, it is clear that more needs to be done to make standards in the PRS more professional and consistent. The Scottish Government is in the process of creating a new tenancy for the PRS with more changes like compulsory letting agent regulation to follow. The changes that are coming are intended to make the PRS a more stable environment for tenants and to make it clearer and easier for landlords to meet their obligations.
There are many groups and organisations lobbying hard on behalf of landlords to try to ensure that future changes in the PRS do not weaken the landlord’s position but this is not a balanced discussion. Most tenants generally don’t seem to be engaged or aware of the changes that are happening and their voices are being lost as a result.
Shelter Scotland is leading the way in representing tenants and helping make their voices heard in the consultation process. The outcome of this is that the balanced solutions reached in new legislation will be more suitable in supporting a sustainable and prosperous PRS. Shelter Scotland deals with situations in the PRS that I am not familiar with; they have examples of rents being driven up on sitting tenants and landlords refusing to carry out essential repairs and maintenance on tenanted properties using threats of ending their tenancies if the tenants pursue it further. It’s clear that while Umega Lettings is not Shelter Scotland’s focus, its agencies like ours that are providing strong opposition to the work Shelter Scotland is trying to do in preventing the situations listed above.
We support the Make Renting Right Campaign because changes in legislation that prevent exploitation of tenants are a no-brainer. Done right, these changes will help underpin a much more sustainable and successful PRS for both tenants and landlords and by working with Shelter Scotland we have the opportunity to help make this happen and ensure this opportunity is not missed.
There are many positive changes to legislation being tabled, to list a few;
- a new simpler standard tenancy for use across the board instead of the overcomplicated, outdated tenancy in use at the moment
- a new specialised arbitration panel to deal with tenancy legal issues instead of the tediously slow and poor experience of the wider court system
- compulsory letting agent regulation to professionalise a wildly inconsistent market
- simpler interpretations of legal requirements for landlords around electrical and fire safety
Much of the reaction to the Shelter Scotland campaign has focused on supposed rent controls and removing the no-fault ground for ending a tenancy. However, Shelter Scotland is only proposing that private tenants be protected from unreasonable rent increases. Shelter Scotland wants to remove the no-fault ground for ending a tenancy so that landlords can’t hold tenants ransom in their own home over not carrying out repairs that are legally required. However, every other reason for a landlord wanting to bring a tenancy to an end (in my experience) is being left in so I fail to see how these changes weaken the landlord’s position.
It would be easy for us to bury our heads in the sand and take up a safe and predictable position around the changes that are coming but that would be irresponsible.
This is a golden opportunity to get it right and we’ll do all we can to help by supporting the Make Renting Right campaign and working with both tenants and landlords on solutions that are practical and effective for the long-term.
You can find out more about the campaign and sign up online at shelterscotland.org/makerentingright.