The private rented sector in Scotland is facing change with improved security for tenants and rights and safeguards for landlords, it has been announced.
The Scottish government said that a new Private Tenancies Bill will be introduced to provide more predictable rents and curb excessive rent rises with local rent controls for areas where prices are deemed too high.
A new Rural Housing Fund will be created to help create more affordable homes in the countryside and more details on the current Help to Buy scheme for first time buyers will follow.
The Scottish Private Rented Tenancy will replace the current Assured system. It will remove the ‘no-fault’ ground for repossession, meaning a landlord can no longer ask a tenant to leave simply because the fixed term has ended. It will also provide comprehensive and robust grounds for repossession that will allow landlords to regain possession in specified circumstances.
The aim is to provide more predictable rents and protection for tenants against excessive rent increases, including the ability to introduce local rent controls for rent pressure areas and overall to create a more streamlined, clearer to understand tenancy system that is fit for the modern private rented sector.
The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon also revealed that the Scottish Government’s target to provide 30,000 affordable homes by the end of this parliament is set to be exceeded. By the end of March 2015, a total of 26,972 affordable homes, some 90% of the target, had been delivered.
Another £195 million will be made available over next three years to extend the Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme which help at least 6,500 households and there will also be a review of the planning system with a particular emphasis on delivering more homes by delivering a quicker more accessible and efficient process.
The Rural Housing Fund aims to help people who wish to stay and live in rural communities where there is often a lack of affordable homes. It will be available from 2016 for a period of three years.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, described the PRS bill as a very positive step that is good news for tenants, landlords and letting agents alike. ‘We look forward to seeing the bill in more detail, the timescales for implementing these changes and how they will work in practice,’ he said.
‘The private rented sector is now home to 330,000 households across Scotland, including around 85,000 families with children. The changes included in the bill will begin the process of reforming the private rented sector and making it more modern, stable, flexible, predictable and fairer for everyone that calls it home,’ he added.
Harriet Protheroe-Davis from the Living Rent Campaign, welcomed the move on rent controls. ‘It is important that the model of rent controls fully addresses the problems in rented housing, and we will continue to campaign to ensure that it does, but today’s announcement shows that the Scottish Government has listened to the thousands of people who have backed the Living Rent Campaign’s calls for rent controls and better protections,’ she explained.
‘Rents are becoming increasingly unaffordable, and if we are serious about tackling poverty in the private rented sector, rent controls are a must,’ she added.
Scottish Land and Estates said that the new funding for rural housing is critical for the future of countryside communities in the country. Sarah-Jane Laing, its director of policy and parliamentary affairs described it as a welcome boost for the rural housing sector.
‘It will also hopefully deliver the overall reforms that are needed in the private rental sector as well. Landowners, both private and community, were at the forefront of developing the Rural Homes for Rent scheme, which delivered significant new housing developments in areas such as Dormont near Lockerbie and Knoydart, and they continue to play a huge role in providing affordable homes across rural Scotland even without government assistance,’ she pointed out.
‘We have been lobbying for a chance for landowners to play an even greater role in the delivery of much need affordable housing in our rural communities in order to build momentum and we hope the new scheme will deliver that in time. It is critical that we deliver new rural housing stock in our rural areas to keep our communities as vibrant as possible and we are glad that the Scottish Government has committed to this,’ she said.
‘Our members pride themselves in providing quality affordable homes and so they are fully supportive of a tenancy regime which will help to address the issue of a small number of unscrupulous landlords who exploit tenants. It is absolutely vital to Scotland’s housing provision that the Private Tenancy Bill, which is expected in October, will deliver for both landlords and tenants,’ she explained.
She also pointed out that the announcement that landlords are going to be given clear rights and safeguards in the way of comprehensive and robust grounds with which to take strong and swift action against tenants who are in breach of their tenancy agreements is to be welcomed.
‘It is our view that in the vast majority of cases, landlords, especially in rural areas, only ask tenants to leave their listings if there are genuine reasons. We therefore welcome reassurance that despite the mechanism to end tenancies with no given reason at the end of the initial period being removed, landlords will be able to take action when required. We hope that the detail of legislation delivers on this,’ she added.
‘We are supportive of a simple and clear new tenancy with annual rent review provisions and a continuation of a mechanism for tenants to not be subject to rent reviews which take rents over the market value,’ she concluded.
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Source: Property News Spain