John Blackwood: Don’t demonise private rented sector

John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords
John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords
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There is a clear need to reform the rental regime in the private rented sector (PRS) in Scotland.

However, as the Scottish Government prepares to publish new legislation in this area, I would strongly urge them to balance the need to protect tenants’ rights with the long-term goal of encouraging future investment in the sector to help solve Scotland’s strategic housing crisis.

The Private Tenancies (Scotland) Bill is expected to include measures to restrict the ability of landlords to end a tenancy, as well as introduce a form of rent controls.

The Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) represents around 2,000 landlords in Scotland and, whilst welcoming the need to update the rental regime in the PRS, our members are concerned that short-term, populist measures could damage investment in the sector as well as the sustainability of the market without solving Scotland’s underlying housing crisis.

SAL is calling on the Scottish Government to work in partnership to implement the long-term strategy outlined in the report by the Commission on Housing and Wellbeing, which included a range of measures including a strong, long-term role for landlords and letting agents. These included involving private landlords in new-build programmes, attracting institutional investors to provide funds for new houses to rent rather than just to buy and encouraging local authorities to work with private landlords to bring back into use empty homes and brownfield sites in urban areas.

Our members fully support the drive to increase standards in the PRS and agree it is time for the rental regime to be modernised. However, measures such as heavy-handed rent control will only endanger investment and drive respected businesses out of the market, leaving the door wide open for rogue landlords and letting agents.

There is also a risk that restricting the ability of landlords to end a tenancy could make it much harder, as well means it will take much longer, to end tenancies where tenants engage in anti-social behaviour, causing distress for neighbours and damaging the reputation of our members.

I hope the Scottish Government doesn’t become fixated with short-term political measures and demonise landlords but, instead, chooses to work with us to solve the larger problem of Scotland’s housing crisis.

John Blackwood is chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords