Developing the private rented sector in Scotland

By: Shelter Scotland
Published: October 2002

Developing the private rented sector in Scotland

1. The private rented sector is home to some of the poorest quality and most poorly managed housing in Scotland. However, the sector also has some of the highest, most professional standards in the country.

2. Changes in the last fifteen years, designed to improve the functioning of the sector as a market, have, at best, halted the decline in private renting numbers. Pinning future hopes primarily on further market-based reforms seems optimistic. More active engagement with the sector is needed.

3. One key area for development is strengthening the hand of consumers to ensure that landlords are held to account over new minimum standards of repair. This could be done by setting in statute minimum standards for repair and ensuring that these standards can be enforced by an independent body.

4. Where possible, the sector should be seeking to promote longer term tenancies as a way of giving tenants an increased stake in their property and so an interest in better conditions. A model tenancy agreement should be developed. The assured tenancy regime should be made more attractive to private landlords now that it will no longer be used by housing associations.

5. A stronger bargaining position for tenants will improve the quality of individual properties. However, the key to better management standards lies in a simple form of registration and regulation, referred to here as 'certification'. This would require landlords to certify that they had met certain standards, coupled with sample inspections to validate those certificates.

6. The main thrust of this paper is to improve the quality of service that tenants receive. If that is the case, the case for rent control fades. The case for public financial support, indirectly, through tax reform, is strengthened.