Estate agent fears higher rents in Scotland if emergency rules become norm

The number of private affordable homes for rent in Scotland could drop, triggering a rise in rental rates, if emergency rules over notice periods stay in place for longer, a property expert is warning.

Chris Wood is managing director of specialist estate agency Portolio, and he is concerned that an unintended consequence of measures designed to protect tenants could be that landlords end up taking their properties out of the rental market.

MSPs have voted to extend emergency rules introduced in response to the coronavirus crisis – meaning landlords must give tenants six months’ notice to vacate property – from September until March next year.

Edinburgh-based Portolio said it could largely see the merit in the longer notice period as it was introduced during the first lockdown, but only as a short-term measure to protect the vulnerable.

Portolio MD Chris Wood worries that landlords could end up taking their properties off the rental market. Picture: contributed.

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But Mr Wood said: “There are real fears that this latest extension may well just drip into permanent change. While we understand that these steps are being taken with the best of intentions for tenants, we are ultimately worried that this would not be good for Scotland’s private rental sector – and actually harm tenants longer term.

“If a six-month notice period becomes the norm, we are hearing from some landlords that they would stop renting out the homes they own. That, in turn, would lead to a lack of supply – which would drive rents up.”

Portolio says it is the only firm of its kind based in Scotland, and specialises in sales from landlord to landlord, meaning the tenants do not have to move from their homes as ownership changes. It has been involved in 143 tenanted homes transactions in the past 12 months – four times higher than in the year previously.

Mr Wood added: “We cannot afford for the numbers of private landlords to fall or put people off from becoming landlords – and this extended notice period could do exactly that. We need a vibrant mix of quality properties for those for whom rental is a lifestyle choice or their only option.

“The Scottish Government’s Housing to 2040 strategy highlights the need for everyone to work together to tackle housing and homelessness issues – and we see the private rental sector playing an important part in that.”

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