THE average rent in the Capital has gone up by more than five per cent in the last measured quarter, pricing many residents out of decent accommodation.
Housing experts had already raised fears that the tightening of legislation regarding fees charged by letting agents would lead to costs being passed on to residents through rent hikes.
A recent report from lettings website Citylets shows these concerns may be well-founded, with the average tenant in Edinburgh now paying £819 per month for accommodation.
The only city with higher rents north of the Border is Aberdeen, where renters can expect to pay £899 for a lease, an increase of 6.3 per cent, compared with Edinburgh’s 5.1 per cent. Glasgow occupants are now paying an average of £612, a 2.2 per cent increase.
Dan Cookson, Citylets’ senior analyst, said the rises seem directly related to the “banning of agent fees”.
He said: “Our report for the last quarter of 2012 is significant in that it is the first to cover a period after the changes in the sector in 2012 took hold.
“Two cities have seen some of the biggest rises in rents – Edinburgh and Aberdeen – and these annual increases are the largest experienced in either city during the last five years. There is a suspicion that the recent banning of agent fees to tenants has had an upward impact on rents. Several agent clients have suggested this to be the case and our data seems to support this view.”
Rob Trotter, senior property manager with DJ Alexander in Dundas Street, said: “We have seen a steady and progressive rise in rents in the past 12 to 18 months. The majority of demand comes from younger tenants looking to secure one and two bedroom, fully furnished flats. There is a steady demand for unfurnished family houses but this market has not seen quite such a significant rise in rental values, especially for larger houses with higher price tags.
“The increase in demand for rental properties is being driven by a growing recognition that renting a home makes far more financial sense than buying one, and for many people is their only option. However, rent rises are also being blamed on the increased legislation affecting private landlords who are passing any additional costs they face on to their tenants.”
Legislation introduced last July designed to reduce disputes between landlords and tenants meant that deposits are now handed over to a third party for safekeeping. Laws regarding fees charged by letting agents were also subject to scrutiny and clarification, after pressure groups campaigned against unlawful and unfair charges.
Liz Ely, of Edinburgh Private Tenant’s Action Group, said: “The ban on agents charging fees for arranging leases is not new, but has been in place since the 1984 Rent Scotland act. Some letting agents chose to charge fees and ignore this ruling. However, it was clarified in the summer of 2012. Many tenants are owed significant sums to them by letting agents.
“However, our members feel that as a result of real decreases in income and the rising cost of food and fuel, rent is becoming increasingly hard to afford. Where the rents themselves may not be rising as dramatically as other living costs, they are becoming a bigger part of household expenditure. Affordable stable accommodation is ital, particularly when the cost of living is increasing far quicker than earnings.”
‘Nowhere is affordable’
Gregor Morrison, 27, who lives with his parents in Blackhall, knows the difficulty of finding good rented accommodation in the capital.
The artist-in-residence at
Telford College said: “I used to live in Aberdeen when I was at university and although rent is more expensive there I had student funding which helped pay any rent and bills.
“However, I had to move back to Edinburgh to do my Masters but I have had to self-fund for that, which has caused me real problems. Luckily I have been able to stay with my parents but obviously I would prefer to have my own place.
“I’ve been trying to find a suitable flat within my price range for over a year and I’m getting nowhere. I need somewhere with space for me to work, but there’s absolutely nothing in the city centre or Leith that’s both usable and affordable.
“It’s all very well people saying to look further afield, but that just adds on travel expenses that end up costing about the same. It’s ridiculous.”
SCOTS ‘STRESSED BY HOUSING COSTS’
A recent report by Shelter Scotland said more than one in four Scots are suffering “stress and depression” over housing costs.
According to a survey carried out by the housing charity, 28 per cent of people in Scotland, compared with 25 per cent in England and 26 in Wales, said they were losing sleep.
Earlier this month the charity also announced that 1.5 million rent or mortgage payers in Scotland were constantly struggling to keep up with their payments.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “These findings reveal the heartbreaking reality of over a million families and individuals living on a knife edge, worrying about paying their rent or mortgage.
“Behind closed doors they face stress, sleepless nights and strained relationships as they desperately struggle to afford their housing bills.
“With little or no chance of things getting better soon our worry is that even more families will face the human tragedy of homelessness this year. We are here to help.
“To restore its housing safety net, Scotland needs to build more affordable homes and reverse welfare cuts.
“Anyone experiencing housing difficulties should call our free national helpline on 0808 800 4444 or visit www.shelterscotland.org.”