Blog: A crucial step towards a secure future for Scotland’s private renters
Shelter Scotland policy officer, James Battye, reflects on last week’s passing of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill.
Last week, the Scottish Parliament passed landmark legislation to boost the legal rights that private tenants have to stay in their homes.
Currently tenants are given as little as two months’ certainty that they can stay in their homes, with landlords having the power to bring tenancies to an end for no reason.
From late 2017 this will all change.
Private renters in Scotland will be given effectively indefinite certainty that they can stay in their homes, with landlords having the right to bring an agreement to an end only in specified circumstances. There will also be greater predictability in respect of rent increases, with only one rent increase permitted per year which can be referred to an independent decision maker.
At Shelter Scotland we’ve been campaigning for this change for well over ten years. During this time we’ve seen the size of the private rented sector more than double; now catering for around 14 per cent of all households in Scotland, including 85,000 with children. The current default short-term tenancy simply does not provide these households with the certainty and stability that they can stay in their homes for as long as they need. There’s no certainty that children growing up in private rented households will remain in the same area, go the same schools, be registered with the same GP or live beside their family and friends.
Not only this, but the current tenancy puts private tenants on a weak footing in terms of enforcing their basic legal rights. Nearly half of all calls to our free housing advice helpline relate to private rented sector issues. Many of these private renters are at the sharp end of the rented sector – with their insecure tenancy agreements leaving them with little consumer power to ask that their landlord’s comply with even the most basic standards of repair.
This is why we’ve been campaigning hard for Scotland’s politicians to support our call to Make Renting Right by reforming the private tenancy, and making security of tenure a central pillar of that reform.
It has been incredible to see the wide political consensus on this issue over past few years. From the Scottish government’s strategy for the private rented sector, the review of the tenancy regime right through to the various consultations on the tenancy and the passing of this legislation through parliament.
This sentiment, of course, extends to all of our supporters as well as the organisations that have pressed government on this important issue. Without such a diverse range of voices calling for this change, our voice would have been so much weaker.
So we, alongside the 330,000 private renter households in Scotland, thank everyone for backings calls for reform of the private rented sector. We hope this consensus will be carried into the next parliament, and beyond.
Over the long term it is our ambition that this vital rebalancing of private tenants’ rights is the beginning of a wider culture change in the way we look at private renting; no longer the poor relation of social housing, or homeownership, but a safe and secure housing option in which all households are able to flourish and lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
With the passing of this legislation we are one step closer to that vision.