First anniversary of new renting laws spark calls to talk home truths

Private rent

James Mullaney examines the effect of new private renting legislation one year on

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30th November 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

Are you working with people who rent their homes from private landlords? Maybe it’s not why you work with them but perhaps issues with their housing have a big impact on their lives. If so, Shelter Scotland’s private renting project wants to hear from you. 

Shelter Scotland’s private tenants’ forum provides a space where anyone renting privately can share their experiences and problems and get support and advice from others in a similar position, alongside Shelter Scotland staff. As well as being a place to get answers and advice, the experiences shared on the forum informs Shelter Scotland’s policy and campaigning work.  

As it’s a year since the biggest shake-up in private renting legislation in 30 years - the Private Residential Tenancy - we’ve been talking to renters about what has improved and what still needs to be done.  

Over the years countless people have come to us for help dealing with landlords and letting agents who refused to fix boilers and leaks, who increased rents frequently, and who ended tenancies with very little notice. Poor quality housing causes considerable stress and can impact on people’s mental health as well as their physical health. They instability can be particularly challenging for parents anxious about being forced to move at short notice – potentially disrupting children’s school lives and friendships.  

James Mullaney

James Mullaney

That’s why we fought for the new PRT – so there would be no more fixed term tenancies and removal of, “no faults” evictions to provide more stability for renters.  Under the new rules landlords must also give longer notice of rent increases and can only increase rent once every 12 months. The default notice period for new private tenants is now 28 days providing a degree of flexibility to private renting which can enable renters to act more like consumers – if landlords are not doing what they should a tenant can quickly move on if they wish.  

From our conversations so far with renters and examination of cases taken to the Housing and Property Chamber First Tier Tribunal, we’ve discovered the legislation has begun to shift the power balance between tenant and landlords towards a more equal footing. Yet tenants far too many private tenants aren’t aware of their new rights or don’t feel confident to challenge landlords or letting agents who let them down.  

Over the coming months we want our forum to be a place people can discuss how the new rules are working and what still needs to happen to ensure they are enforced and that standards rise.  

As well as speaking directly to renters, Shelter Scotland wants to speak to groups who work with private renters. Together we can ensure that tenants’ voices are heard and that renting laws in Scotland are fit for the 21st century.  

James Mullaney is renter project officer at Shelter Scotland. He can be contacted at [email protected]