Labour “rent controls” policy a “solution looking for a problem”

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Holyrood debate informed by largest-ever survey of tenants in private rented property conducted by Lettingstats.

Letscotland, the trade membership body for letting agents in Scotland, has made clear that mid-lease rent rises are an irrelevance to the vast majority of private rented sector (PRS) tenants in Scotland. The Scottish Government is in the process of consulting on a new PRS tenancy system, which also canvasses opinion on whether a system of rent controls is necessary, whilst Scottish Labour maintain that a system of rent controls are necessary to remove “excessive” rises. The Scottish Government has indicated that a further Housing Bill will be introduced during this Scottish Parliamentary term.

The evidence comes from a survey conducted by Lettingstats, part of the Lettingweb family, which canvassed the opinions of over 7,400 tenants of the PRS. It is believed to be the largest opinion survey of private renting tenants conducted in UK. The data is available in table form here.

Far from showing that tenants in the Scottish PRS are concerned by escalating rent levels, the poll found that:

  • 86% of tenants surveyed had never received a request for a rent increase during a lease.
  • 90% had never experienced a rent rise that was deemed to be unreasonable.
  • 91% of tenants think that the frequency of rent reviews on their property has been reasonable.
  • 41% of tenants are confident that they could secure another rented property in a reasonable timeframe if they had to leave their current home.

The evidence is in stark contrast to claims that rent controls were required to restrict the market excesses, and undermines the case for including rent controls in any forthcoming legislation at Holyrood.

Malcolm Warrack, Chairman of Letscotland, which has circulated the results of the Lettingstats survey to all MSPs in advance of the debate later today (Wednesday). He said:

“Scotland’s private rented sector has grown hugely in response to the demands of the market, and these figures make clear that the overwhelming majority of tenants do not share the view that there is a problem with escalating rent levels. The vast majority do not receive a request for a rent rise during their tenancy, and if they do, it seems that most consider that request to be reasonable."

“Housing provision is vital for the success of the economy and for meeting the demands of wider society. We need to get any future reforms right for tenants and right for the market. The Lettingstats survey also found that only 41% of tenants are confident that they could secure another suitable rented property in a reasonable timeframe if they had to leave their current home. That uncertainty is founded on a shortage of rented properties on the market to meet demand."

“With rented properties being snapped up within days of going on the market, we have a supply problem in private rented stock in Scotland. We need to ensure current landlords remain in the sector keep their properties and encourage them to provide more in future to meet rising demand. Frankly, rent controls will only further restrict the supply of properties on the market, and turn a problem into a crisis.”

Dan Cookson, Head of research at Lettingweb, who conducted the Lettingstats research into tenant opinions, said:

“This is certainly the largest survey ever conducted into private tenant opinion in Scotland, we are very grateful to the many thousands of tenants that gave us their views and Lettingstats is keen to share the results widely. However, politicians do need to take notice of what tenants are saying."

“Tenants are very clear in this survey - by a ratio of 9 to 1 they are content with the frequency of rent reviews, and they find rent increases reasonable by the same margin."

“Given just 41% of private tenants are confident they could find suitable alternative accommodation reasonably quickly it seems they are already aware of the current supply problem."

“Further detailed analysis of the survey results will reveal in which areas this demand/supply imbalance is strongest, which will be of interest to the market and government in planning a strategic response to the ever-increasing level of demand for private rented homes.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. LetScotland is part of the Lettingweb family, making the case for a strong, sustainable and successful private rented housing sector. Further details at www.letscotland.org.
  2. Lettingweb.com is the largest marketplace for lettings in Scotland, and has been a market leader in the sector since its inception in 1999. It has the biggest choice of rental stock available nationwide as well as innovative tools to help tenants find their perfect property.
  3. Lettingstats produce the most detailed analysis of the Private Rental Market in Scotland and publish their next quarterly report in mid December.
  4. The Lettingstats online survey is being distributed by email to all that have registered an interest in Scottish rental property and is running between 25.11.14 and 7.12.2014. As at 1.12.2014 the survey was responded to by 7,453 adults who self-identified that they had lived in the Scottish private rented sector. Preliminary results are available here.
  5. In November 2012 Shelter and British Gas commissioned YouGov to survey 4,327 adults in England living in the private rented sector which was claimed to be the largest survey of renters at the time.
  6. Media enquiries to Peter Duncan on 07740 469949, or Andy Maciver on 07855 261244.
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