On 20th December 2021 the Scottish Government opened a consultation which aims to ensure all tenants, whether living in private or social rented homes can access secure, stable and affordable tenancies. 2017 saw the introduction of the model Private Residential Tenancy with the aim of providing security of tenure for tenants in the private sector. The Scottish Government now plans further extensive reform during the course of this parliament with the aim of delivering a fairer rented sector that meets the needs of tenants and welcomes responsible landlords.
The intended reforms include:-
- Increasing penalties for illegal evictions with stronger enforcement powers.
- Restricting evictions during winter.
- Providing tenants greater flexibility to personalise their homes and keep pets.
- Developing a national system of rent controls.
- Introducing a new housing standard to apply to all homes.
- Establishing a private rented sector regulator to uphold the standards and ensure the system is fair for both landlords and tenants.
- Setting minimum standards for energy efficiency, making homes cheaper to heat while contributing to Scotland’s climate change targets.
Overall, the aim is to put private rented sector tenants on a more equal footing with their social rented counterparts, however, the consultation paper illustrates a marked difference in the level of rents within each sector. For example, in the Social Sector the average rent (in the year 2020/2021) for a 2 bedroom property was £359 compared with £693 in the Private Sector. The research also shows the significant variation in the increase in rent levels over a 10 year period, particularly in areas of high demand. For example, in Lothian and in Greater Glasgow, rents increased by around 40% compared with the corresponding rate of inflation of 24.3%. In other areas, such as Inverclyde the increase was as little as 9.5%. The proposed introduction of rent controls is intended to address the impact of free market forces in the private sector, however, existing measures introduced in 2017 have been largely ineffective.
The consultation document runs to 108 pages and makes for interesting reading, in places. The Scottish Government has a clear appetite to drive up standards in the private housing sector, however, the growth in that sector in recent decades has been due mainly to the significant increase in landlords with a small portfolio of properties. It remains to be seen whether the proposed changes will drive these individuals out of the market, putting even greater demand on an increasingly depleted private rented sector. There are interesting times ahead!
The consultation closes on 15th April 2022.