The “Make Renting Right” conference brought the good Scottish private landlords together with their counterparts in housing associations and advice agencies, and there was some good news, says Councillor Jimmy Black in his Blog for Scottish Housing News:
“150,000 private rented tenancies are in bona fide tenancy deposit schemes, and that represents real progress. Depressingly, 180,000 tenancies are not participating, which makes you wonder.”
Making Renting Right is Scotland’s annual private rented sector (PRS) conference, and was hosted this year at the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor on the 24th June 2015.
The main topic on our agenda was the forthcoming Bill on tenancy reform, plus impending letting agent regulation and tenant representation in the private rented sector. The aim of the one-day conference is to “share best practice and reiterate the importance of all parties working together across the private rented sector at a time of growth and reform.”
This year’s speakers included:
John Blackwood, Chief Executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, who chaired the event
Keynote – Kath Scanlon from the London School of Economics, considered recent growth in the private rented sector set in the context of private renting internationally.
Adrian Stalker from Westwater Chambers, examined the Scottish Government’s proposal for a new private tenancy.
Susan Aktemel from Homes for Good, shared her experience as the owner of a social letting agency and an investor in private rented housing in Scotland.
Barbara Steenbergen from the International Union of Tenants and Liz Ely from Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group and Living Rent.
Councillor Jimmy Black’s Blog:
You are looking for your first rented flat, and a landlord says:
“give me £200 and I’ll keep this flat for you. But back out and the money’s mine”.
Would you know this was an illegal premium?
If the landlord then said:
“Leave the place in good order and I’ll give you back a month’s rent”, would you know this was an illegal deposit?
To most folks entering the private rented market, says Councillor Black, these terms of business would seem reasonable enough. So dodgy landlords get away with a lot.
But Andrew Cowan of TC Young expressed some anguish at new legislation coming from the Scottish Government, which will include a single tenancy agreement for the private sector, and changes to the grounds for repossession. He claimed that we cannot enforce current legislation such as HMO licensing and landlord registration; why would we take on more?*
Councillor Black said, “This made me bristle. For example, just this week I had some very effective help from Glasgow’s HMO team. And as a member of the Dundee Licensing Committee, I know that we deal robustly with errant landlords. But comments round the hall gave the impression that enforcement varies in quality around the country, and that may be a matter of resources, different interpretations, local Sheriffs who take strange decisions, or flaws in the laws. Whatever it is, it’s time to speak up, now. Housing minister Margaret Burgess could sort it, I think, if people give her the information she needs.
“Two of the landlord reps present made a very valid point which proves how hard it is to get legislation right. They believe the new tenancy agreement will make it impossible to give students what they often want, which is a ten-month tenancy corresponding to the academic year. That leaves the summer for maintenance, short term lets or, in Edinburgh, filling up your flat with thespians. The landlords may have a point, but how do you change things without creating a huge loophole?
“I also have some concerns, mainly about the new grounds for repossession. You can get your flat back for refurbishment, or a change of business use, or to sell. Liz Ely from Living Rent was concerned these could easily be abused. As ever, the devil will be in the detail, and I believe the government will welcome the informed scrutiny of our hard bitten housing professionals as the bill makes its way through Parliament.”
* According to figures produced by the Scottish Association of Landlords up until January 2013, a multi-million pound Landlord Registration scheme introduced to crack down on rogue landlords resulted in only 11 people being reported to the procurator fiscal in two years.
The Landlord Registration Scheme had so far cost landlords and the taxpayer nearly £18 million since 2006, according to figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives with responsible landlords paying £11.2 million in fees, while the start-up Scottish Government grant for the scheme was £5.2 million.
Annual running fees for the website since 2006 are estimated to be just under £300,000, and despite that cost of running the scheme only a handful of cases had then made it as far as the Crown Office, and only 40 landlords had been refused registration, compared with 200,000 successful applicants.
Rogue Landlord Prosecutions Costing More Than One £1m a Time
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