‘Living rent’ limit call to protect tenants

The cost of renting a place to live has soared over the past four years. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The cost of renting a place to live has soared over the past four years. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THE National Union of Students has joined with tenants’ rights groups to call on the Scottish Government to introduce a living rent as part of 
its consultation into tenancy reform.

The Living Rent Campaign for controls to protect tenants from rip-off rents and improve security of tenure is backed by the NUS, Acorn Scotland and Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group (EPTAG). The consultation is the first major overhaul of legislation in the private rented sector for 25 years.

Over the past four years, monthly rents for two-bedroom properties have increased by 11.1 per cent in Glasgow, 17.2 per cent in Edinburgh and 39.8 per cent in Aberdeen, while wages have stayed much the same, according to EPTAG figures.

Rent controls are used in several other European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, where there are a much larger proportion of privately rented homes.

Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland, said: “During the campaign we have spoken to hundreds of people. I met one person who had finally got his own place after sleeping rough for seven years.

“He told me how his life was in the best state it had ever been, but that his landlord had just hiked up his rent. He told me, almost in tears, about how terrified he was of ending up back on the streets. This is the reality of the housing market.”

Launched by housing minister Margaret Burgess, the consultation paper, New Tenancy For The Private Sector, is part of the government’s commitment to reform the sector by “enabling more effective regulation, applying tougher enforcement and attracting new investment”.

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Under the proposals, any notice to quit will be linked to how long the tenant has lived in the property – a proposal welcomed by tenants’ groups and housing charities.

Last week the Labour party announced its wish “to ban rip-off rents” and lent support in principle for the introduction of a cap on rent rises and the limitation of rent reviews to one per annum.

Labour’s housing spokeswoman Mary Fee last night said: “The private rented sector has exploded in size in the last decade, too many families in Scotland are trapped in the private rented sector, unable to access social housing or get a foot on the property ladder.

“We have to reform the system so it works for people, not vested interests.”

According to data from HomeLet, the average tenant in Edinburgh spends nearly half of their income on rent. In Aberdeenshire, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom property is £898, in Lothian it is £779 and in Greater Glasgow it is £626.

However Letscotland, the trade body for letting agents, has said the majority of tenants do not share the view that there is a problem with escalating rents.

A survey of more than 7,000 private sector tenants showed 91 per cent think the frequency of rent reviews on their property has been reasonable.

Malcolm Warrack, chairman of Letscotland, said: “We need to ensure current landlords remain in the sector and encourage them to provide more (properties) in future to meet rising demand. Frankly, rent controls will only further restrict the supply of properties on the market, and turn a problem into a crisis.”

The consultation runs until 28 December. Visit www.scotland.gov.uk for details.

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