To be known as “Living Rent”, tenants have launched their own tenants’ union and Scotland’s first national union for people living in the private rented sector (PRS).
They claim the organisation is to be run for and by tenants, with Living Rent providing support for private tenants and campaigning for better housing in Scotland.
The organisers say that the union will “act as a counter-balance to landlords’ industry bodies that have been dominating the housing debate in Scotland”, and it aims to provide advice and support for individual tenants.
According to a report by Scottish Housing News the new union has been endorsed by journalist Lesley Riddoch, housing expert Professor Douglas Robertson and Andy Wightman MSP who has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament to congratulate Living Rent on its launch of the union.
The union says it aims to represent PRS tenants in a “housing market that has seen rapid decrease in house ownership and socially rented housing.” According to a recent Scottish Household Survey, 14% of Scots now turn to the private sector for a home, but, they say, struggle with unaffordable rent levels, insecurity and poor housing conditions.
Tenant’s unions are not new having famously existed in New York since early in the last century. Living Rent is said to follow in these footsteps and those of other established tenants unions in European countries such as Sweden, where it is said tenants’ membership organisations represent thousands of tenants’ interests in national policy making as well as individual housing disputes.
Living Rent has emerged from a campaign known as the “Living Rent Campaign”, which had tenants across Scotland campaigning for rent controls and more security of tenure.
As reported by Scottish Housing News, Liz Ely, acting chair of Living Rent, has said:
“Right now, too many landlords can get away with charging rip off rents for poor quality housing, and tenants are paying the price. The private rented sector is regulated like it’s just another business venture, but the reality is that hundreds and thousands of Scots rely on private landlords to keep a roof over their heads. We need real rent controls, proper regulations and representation for tenants.
“Over the past two years, we’ve heard countless stories of tenants struggling with sky-high rents, unsafe housing conditions, and illegal evictions. It doesn’t have to be this way – in many European countries, large, active tenants’ unions provide support to their members and negotiate housing policy at the local and national level.
“Housing isn’t a luxury good but a basic necessity – without strong safeguards and balanced policy-making, tenants will continue to struggle in a housing market that puts the interests of private profit first. Living Rent will work to make sure that every tenant in Scotland has a safe, affordable and secure home to go to.”
Lesley Riddoch, journalist, has said:
“It’s good to see the campaign for a living rent because without it the living wage is next to meaningless. Private renting is no longer a temporary phase of life for students, young people and folk on the move – it’s become a permanent and very expensive destination for tens of thousands of Scots.
“This Scottish tenants union is a great idea – borrowed from Sweden – which means tenants can help protect one another from the worst excesses of the worst landlords. It’s the start of a more level playing field in the private rented sector and that should benefit everyone.”
Douglas Robertson, Professor of Housing at the University of Stirling and member of the Scottish Government Private Rented Sector Strategy Group, has also said:
“In all tenancy matters a strong and vigorous private tenants association – as is common throughout Europe, given the higher proportion of such rented properties – is a critical component.
“Having tenancy rights defined in law is all well and good, but they can only function if people have the confidence to use them. A strong democratic tenants’ body is critical to ensuring such confidence.”
Scotland’s private tenants launch tenants’ their union https://t.co/Zb6hJfgn6y
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) June 29, 2016