Landlords are calling on the Scottish Government to provide direct financial support to tenants struggling to pay the rent to help those who own the property survive the worst of the pandemic.
The Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) made the demand after a survey of landlords found that 95 per cent of letting agents had lost around £10,000 due to the pandemic, while two-thirds of all landlords have lost around £5,000.
Scottish Government intervention into the rental market has been light with a temporary halt to eviction proceedings being lauded by the SNP as a ‘eviction ban’ designed to protect tenants who are unable to keep up with their rent.
The legislation has been criticised by the Scottish Greens who said the extension of the law until April 2021 meant it would simply delay evictions rather than tackling the route cause of the issue with direct tenant support.
Now the chief executive of SAL, John Blackwood, has called on the government to “put money in the pockets of tenants” to allow them to pay rent and keep landlords afloat.
Mr Blackwood said: “What landlords, tenants and the Scottish Government must focus on is how to sustain tenancies.
"Landlords should continue to be flexible and understanding, reducing rent and writing off arrears where possible for those affected by the pandemic, and tenants should ensure that their landlord is kept informed about changes to allow for reasonable solutions to be found.
“But unless the Scottish Government uses the powers of Holyrood to put money in the pockets of tenants so they can pay their rent, we will find ourselves back here in March 2021 only with a greatly amplified problem and even less flexibility to find a solution that works for everyone, exacerbating the effects of the pandemic and economic downturn.”
One landlord badly effected by the pandemic, James Ewen, has been a professional landlord for 22 years in Edinburgh and supports himself and his parents through his business.
With properties mostly focused on the student market, the Covid-19 crisis has seen around 90 per cent of the 41-year-old’s properties sit empty for the five month duration of the pandemic.
Hopeful that tenants will appear as more students return to Edinburgh, Mr Ewen said it did not seem fair that landlords were not supported alongside other businesses during the pandemic.
He said: “We are trying to let for the new academic year, but the pandemic has totally wiped out my income and my parents’ income as it is effectively their pension.
"We have got mortgage holidays which has helped, but if we had not had access to those we would have been in a really serious situation with our lenders.
"There has been no kind of support for landlords. We have basically had all our income wiped out which doesn’t seem fair when other businesses still get financial support from the government.
Mr Ewen added: "Rent holidays and mortgage holidays store up the problem for later because the tenant is still due the rent and there is a danger that tenants end up in a situation of debt that they are unable to get out of.
"Mortgage holidays are effectively added on to loans, and although it obviously keeps landlords from going into arrears, it does add on to their mortgage account.”
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We understand the financial pressures people are under due to the economic impact of Covid-19. That is why we have taken action to support both landlords and tenants.
“Through our Landlord Loan Fund we are helping private landlords with interest free loans. For tenants we are extending our protection from eviction for a further six months to the end of March 2021.
"We have also increased investment in our Discretionary Housing Payment fund for housing support by £5m to £16m. We have also written to the UK Government to urge them to increase reserved benefits for housing assistance to support people at this time.
“We would encourage any tenant struggling to pay their rent to speak to their landlord to discuss their situation and seek advice about the wide range of support available to help them pay their rent.”