Fiona King: Work together to modernise rental laws

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Have your say

At Shelter Scotland we fight against homelessness and bad housing and campaign to prevent it in the 
 first place. People come to us when they are experiencing problems with their housing and this can include facing eviction or trouble with their landlord.

In recent years, we have seen the number of our clients living in the private rented sector (PRS) soar. This reflects that there are now 312,000 households living in the sector, of which one in four are families with children, and there are around 100,000 landlords who rent out their properties.

As more and more people in Scotland choose the PRS for their home, the need for urgent reform of the laws that govern the sector is greater than ever. That’s why today we have launched our new Make Renting Right campaign. We want to work with landlords, tenants and stakeholders across the country to improve, modernise and reform private renting.

Our campaign calls for a new type of tenancy that will make the sector more stable and flexible and that will benefit both tenants and landlords. Within this new framework there must also be a fairer system for sorting out disputes when they arise and a mechanism for controlling annual rent rises which would give everyone greater security.

The changes we seek for private renters across Scotland are significant and are the culmination of more than ten years’ work with a range of partners to understand and get consensus on the current flaws, but more importantly the huge potential in our flourishing private rented sector.

With social house-building at a critically low level and buying a property financially out of reach for many in the current climate, private renting is no longer the preserve of students and part-time workers. In fact, the number of families living with children in the PRS has more than doubled in the last ten years. That is why we need to make sure the sector works for everyone.

The current tenancy regime allows landlords to kick tenants out for no reason, even if they plan to continue to rent out the property. We want a better balance of the rights and responsibilities between tenants and landlords. We want to see a sector that offers stability for people who want to make private rented housing their home and settle in their communities – whether that’s children settled in school, or a home close to work.

And we’re not alone. The Scottish Government has set out its vision for reforming the PRS and is currently consulting on what a new tenancy for the sector could look like. We would encourage as many people as possible to respond to this – now is the chance to have your say and to feed into this critical process for changing the current regime.

In addition, we have also been working closely with partners in the landlord sector who are also committed to reforming and improving a fast-growing sector, to make sure it works for everyone.

It is great to see housing, and especially private rented housing, high on the political agenda in Scotland, and over the next few months we’ll be meeting with politicians, organisations and individuals asking them to support our campaign to Make Renting Right. If you want to add your support to this campaign, please sign up via www.shelterscotland.org/makerentingright.

Fiona King is campaigns and public affairs manager at Shelter Scotland