Call for ‘student tenancy’ as students reject proposed tenancy reforms

StudentsStudents in Scotland have roundly rejected one of the principal tenets of the Scottish Government’s Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill as unworkable and failing to recognise their specific needs and interests.

In a new study of attitudes, opinions and needs of those living in the private rented sector, a clear majority of students surveyed wanted to keep costs down with tenancy arrangements that matched the 9-10 month academic year – yet such tenancies would be abolished under the government’s new plans for a single, open-ended contract.

A large proportion of students (54 per cent) responding would prefer to keep the current fixed term tenancies (with possible option to renew in discussion with landlord) while 45 per cent strongly agree that there should be an option for a flexible or short term tenancy agreement agreed between landlord and tenant at the outset, underscoring the point that different students need different options. 64 per cent felt keeping rental costs down by vacating a property during the summer months was important.

In addition, 92 per cent said that being able to secure accommodation for the next academic year as early as possible was important. The open-ended tenancies proposed in the Bill would also make this very difficult as the new system precludes landlords from advertising properties until a tenant has agreed to leave.

The survey was commissioned to help inform MSPs as they consider amendments to the Bill by campaign group PRS4Scotland, which is now calling for a specific ‘student tenancy’.

Dan Cookson from PRS4Scotland said: “This survey focused solely on the needs of tenants and the findings would indicate that a single open-ended Private Residential Tenancy, while meeting the needs of many, would fail to meet the needs of students.

“On top of that, a large majority of tenants across all types of tenancy who responded to the survey wanted to retain flexibility, which would be lost under the current government proposals.

“These detailed research findings show that, while clearly well-intentioned, the government’s one-size-fits-all approach to tenancies will cause huge problems for tenants and landlords alike.

“The government suggests the market will simply ‘adjust’ to these and other issues raised. Its business impact assessment acknowledges that this will be bad for landlords, but this is clear evidence that some tenant groups, like students, will struggle with the changes too. We would urge the government to make available their assessments of the adjustments that are likely to occur, including estimates of increases or decreases in supply and rental costs.

“MSPs must now consider proposals for a ‘student tenancy’ that gives students what they want: all of the same rights as other PRS tenants under the Bill while retaining the flexibility needed to make the student housing market work effectively.”

Why Research Limited, a leading independent market research agency based in Scotland was commissioned to undertake the survey, which is the most detailed research on tenants’ opinions and needs undertaken since the launch of the Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill on 7 October 2015. Carried out between 9 and 20 December 2015, it achieved a total of 1,535 responses, 363 of which were from a broad spectrum of students studying in Scotland and currently renting in the PRS or looking to rent next academic year.

The survey was commissioned in response to questions on the Bill’s impact on students and other tenant groups by MSPs on the Holyrood Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee during hearings before Christmas.

A full copy of the research findings can be accessed here.


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