Housing experts have made controversial calls for a ‘slimmed down’ Scottish private rented sector with fewer private landlords in order to better serve tenants on low incomes.
During a local government and communities committee meeting to discuss the stalled Fair Rents Bill, MSPs heard that the sector was currently serving people it wasn’t intended to.
MSP Pauline McNeill’s bill would cap rent rises at 1% above inflation and give renters protection against excessive or unfair rent increases.
Gordon Maloney, national committee member at Living Rent, said the sector needed to be shrunk. “If one of the consequences of reducing rents is that landlords choose to sell properties, perhaps to families currently renting who would much rather buy, I think that’s something we should welcome and embrace.”
He added that the power imbalance between tenants and landlords had grown over the pandemic.
“Some landlords have acted disgracefully, hiking rents, refusing to make repairs, treating tenants appallingly,” said Maloney.
Tony Cain, policy manager at the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, agreed that the sector was too big.
“We need to transform the housing market,” he said. “The private rented sector doesn’t focus much on service quality and tenants’ interest, but on landlords’ rights and their interests. That culture needs to be changed.”
Although he agreed there needed to be a larger social rented sector, John Blackwood (pictured), chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said both tenants and landlords would be adversely affected by the bill.
“Landlords rely on rental income to maintain and upgrade property – any limit on rent will affect investment,” said Blackwood, who added that it could also lead to higher rents.
However, Living Rent’s Maloney said landlords shouldn’t have the expectation that if they made an improvement they could increase the rent. “The relationship between rent and quality should be more of a stick [than a carrot] and tenants should be able to force repairs.”