Please Note: This Article is 5 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

In Scotland the growing private rental sector has been the subject of much debate during the SDP’s “Consultation on a New Tenancy for the Private Sector”, the proposed new legislation following that, and more recently it’s been highlighted during the centenary of the Glasgow Rent Strike*.

A Mr Robert Aitken of Kilpatrick Gardens, Glasgow, commenting on a letter contribution to the HeraldScotland, says:

“I note with interest Mike Dailly’s Agenda contribution on the private rental sector (PRS) (“Tenants have little or no power in their relationships with landlords”, The Herald, October 12).

“I am amazed at the one-sided view of the private rented sector (PRS) he portrays. As a retired property manager my own experience differs considerably.

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“Mr Dailly states that his extensive survey indicates that tenants do not enter the PRS by choice. Most of us aspire to own our home eventually, but did he survey students, those on work contracts away from home, couples saving for a deposit, those escaping a partner or those evicted by a social landlord for their opinion? They are all usually happy to enter a contract giving them accommodation for a short period and don’t consider they are “over a barrel”.”

Mr Aitken points out that “As a Short Assured Tenancy cannot be for less than six months and many tenants do not initially wish any longer, but it would be a short-sighted landlord who did not offer a responsible tenant an extension to the lease, rather than incur the considerable costs when a tenant leaves. Unfortunately not all tenants are responsible and legal action is often the only avenue available to the landlord, although this is often a considerable waste of time.”

Apparently, Mr Dailly in his letter said that his survey indicated tenants are afraid to report property defects to the landlord for fear of eviction, despite acknowledging their considerable rights. Surely, Aitken says, “he is well aware that landlords cannot evict a tenant without a court order and that the tenant can also make an application to the Private Rented Housing Panel to inspect the property and force action?”

Stating that rents are more expensive in the private sector than the subsidised social sector, Mr Aitken says, “but like Mr Dailly’s legal practice, landlords try to make a profit. If the rent is too high the prospective tenant can look elsewhere.”

Stating that “It is also a foolish landlord who does not place the tenant’s deposit in one of the Governments safeguarding schemes, the penalty being up to three times the unsecured deposit, Mr Aitken goes on to comment:

“Applications from homeless applicants previously in the PRS will of course be higher, as the length of a lease the private sector are able to offer is so short. The £500,000 of housing benefit paid to PRS landlords does not seem quite so great when you consider housing benefit now runs at more than £20 billion per annum, with the majority covering the rents of pensioners.”

On the subject of violence, Aitken says, “…I am sure there are some who use intimidation on tenants, but my own experience differs. I made an arrangement to visit a tenant who had not paid us his rent despite receiving housing benefit directly. Despite wearing glasses I was punched in the face and pushed downstairs. My assailant was not charged, as there were no witnesses.”

“There are bad landlords out there, but experience has shown me, there are far more bad tenants. Mr Dailly is quick to put all the blame on private landlords but if there was no PRS where would the 14.6 per cent of households using their facilities live?”

Dan Cookson, Head of Research at Lettingweb for PRS 4 Scotland replied:

“While we recognise some of the localised issues raised by Mike Dailly, this in no way reflects Scotland’s private rented sector (PRS) as a whole. Scotland’s PRS is the most highly regulated in the UK and the sweeping generalisations he makes demonise a sector that has made great strides to set high standards.

“The sector has embraced change, welcomes regulation that supports both tenants and landlords and contrary to the picture painted by Mr Dailly’s survey, is one of ongoing improvement. Scottish Government figures show 8 per cnent satisfaction with providers in PRS, the largest tenant survey by Lettingstats shows just 14 per cent of sitting tenants experienced rent rises and according to the Scottish House Condition Survey, only 6% or properties were “below tolerable standard” – and that figure was decreasing further.

“If there is a failure in the system it is that the lack of housing has created a situation where demand far outstrips supply. If we could establish a policy environment that incentivises existing landlords and encourages institutional investment to “build for rent” we would see the kind of growth in good quality, affordable long-term rental properties that is taking place in England.

“If this were to happen, we would not have to rely on the “accidental landlord” to fill the housing gap. Instead, with more choice, all landlords would have to compete for tenants by providing the kind of homes rental tenants want to live in.”

* The First World War, as in the second, an existing housing shortage, especially in the big industrial cities, which became crowded with fresh entrants into the armaments industries, became acute. The landlords of those days took advantage raising rents, and evicting those that couldn’t pay. This led to the introduction in the UK of rent control legislations lasting until the de-regulations of the PRS with the 1988 Housing Act. In the meantime the PRS had declined from housing more than three-quarters of families down to less than 10 per cent.

Please Note: This Article is 5 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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