Rising rents and benefits cuts ‘pushing vulnerable tenants out of Scottish PRS’

PRS housing stockThe UK’s most vulnerable tenants are being pushed out of the private rental market, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has warned.

New figures from its latest Residential Market Survey show that around one-third of respondents believe that access to private rented properties had fallen among people on housing benefits.

Recent caps to housing benefits were cited by 29 per cent of respondents as a key reason why those on lower incomes were being pushed out of the rental market.

Those on lower incomes are set to face further financial difficulties with rents expected by respondents to the survey to increase by in excess of 20 per cent over the next five years. By way of contrast, house prices are projected to increase by around 18 per cent over the same period.

However, the Scottish Government may be able to provide assistance, as respondents to the survey suggested that more than half of the UK’s private landlords would be prepared to rent their properties to homeless people or those on housing benefits if the government introduced some form of state-endorsed deposit guarantor scheme.

Fifty two per cent of those surveyed said that they would consider letting properties to households in receipt of housing benefit and/or homeless households if help was provided through central government which provided financial guarantees for both deposits and rent, and ongoing support for both parties.

Gail Hunter, director RICS in Scotland, said: “As housing prices and rental costs continue to increase, it is imperative that support is available to those at the lower end of the market. It is vital that we ensure they too have access to a secure and sustainable home. As part of RICS ‘A Home For Cathy’ campaign – aimed at tackling UK homelessness – we have joined forces with Crisis to call on the UK and Scottish Governments to do more to support vulnerable tenants through the introduction of help to rent measures.”

The survey also showed that across Scotland the shortage of available properties to rent is continuing to grow, with tenant demand exceeding the number of new instructions on the market since January 2009.

RICS CEO Sean Tompkins said: “We see this as a matter of public interest. The housing market is falling increasingly out of step with the majority of household incomes. In the current climate, it can be hard enough for young professionals to make ends meet. But for those on benefits, the pressures may be insurmountable. Worryingly our figures show that as a result of a combination of economic pressures, more and more vulnerable tenants are being pushed out of the private rented sector. However, if Government were to put in place additional support measures through the introduction of help to rent schemes, the door to the rental market may once again be opened for Britain’s most vulnerable.”

Respondents indicated that an increase in house prices was continuing across the Scottish housing market, with 24 per cent saying that they had seen a rise rather than a fall in prices over the past three months.

Sales expectations remain positive, with 33 per cent more chartered surveyors expecting a rise in house sales in Scotland during the next three months. Despite these positive figures, the number of new properties entering the Scottish market continued to fall during February, with 36 per cent more respondents reporting a decline in new instructions.

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