life has changed dramatically in the quarter of a century since the laws now governing the relationship between private landlords and tenants were hatched.
For instance, the cost has soared beyond all recognition. Previous generations would have laughed at the idea of paying £800 a month for a two-bedroom flat in a very average neighbourhood, but that is the reality today. In the past four years alone, rents have soared by 20 per cent in the Capital.
The other big thing that has changed is that many more of us are renting, which is far more common today than at any time since the 1970s. For some it is a lifestyle choice, they like the flexibility of being able to move, but for many more it comes down – at least in part – to the fact that owning their own home is simply unaffordable. So, with so many more of us renting, and for much longer, it is no wonder that the spotlight has fallen on the problems faced by some tenants.
The balance between the rights of the tenants and those of the landlords are not quite right at the moment and that needs to be addressed. Is it right that someone who has lived for years in the same flat, paid their bills and otherwise behaved responsibly, can be thrown out for no good reason at a few weeks’ notice? Or that their rent can be hiked up without decent warning to a level they simply can’t afford?
Some reasonable curbs on the abuses of bad landlords should not affect the vast majority who behave decently towards tenants.
The concerns of property owners though cannot simply be brushed aside. Edinburgh needs lots of flats for rent, as secure homes, first and foremost, but also for student and tourist lets. It hurts us all if the rules become so restrictive that large numbers of landlords decide renting their property is more hassle than it’s worth.
Tougher regulation is needed but it must be flexible and sensible.