rent controls
Image: Living Rent Campaign (Scotland).

With a media heavily focussed on interest rates and property prices, it can be easy to forget that it is private renters who are on the sharp end of the housing crisis. Tenants face high rents, insecure tenancy arrangements and homes which are often in a poor state of repair.

This explains the increasing momentum of the Living Rent Campaign, which is supported by a number of organisations including Acorn Scotland, Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group and NUS Scotland.

The living rent campaign has three key demands for the Scottish Government.

To Bring Rents Under Control

Private tenants desperately need affordable housing. Many private tenants experience rent poverty. Spending more than 30% of your income on housing has become the norm, with many tenants spending upwards of 50% of their wages on rent. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently predicted private rents to rise up to 90% in real terms in England, this cannot be allowed to happen in Scotland. Countries around the world have mechanisms for controlling how much rent can be charged, including places like Germany which has a much larger proportion of privately rented homes.

To Protect Tenants From Eviction

The current most commonly used tenancy (the short assured tenancy) offers little long term stablity for tenants. Once a tenant is outside of the fixed term of their lease, usually after the first 6 months or a year, the landlord has the right to evict a tenant without giving any justification.

To Provide Flexibility and Security

We need to be secure in our homes, and tenancy arrangements should provide this for tenants, however renters still need flexibility. Employment continues to be unstable, and sometimes renters do need to move at short notice. We do not think that flexibility needs to be sacrificed for long term security.

This many seem like an ambitious political shopping list, however the current consultation on a new tenancy type offers a vital opportunity to win real improvements for tenants. The Scottish Government are seriously considering getting rid of ‘no fault’ eviction as part of a new tenancy type for the sector. Specific clauses of housing contracts may not make for the most fascinating dinner conversation or succinct placard slogan, however getting rid of no fault eviction is one of the single most important things the Scottish Government could do for private tenants. It would allow renters to feel more confident in asserting our rights, as we would be able to do so without the arbitrary fear of eviction. Housing is not going to improve without renters organising collectively and putting pressure on policy makers, this is difficult to do when tenants are afraid of speaking out for fear of eviction.

Thankfully tenants are already organising in Scotland, and it is easy to see the spirit of the referendum living on through the Living Rent Campaign. Stalls are popping up with eager volunteers keen to get members of the public to respond to this consultation, culminating in a demonstration at Parliament at 1pm on Thursday the 18th of December, 10 days before the consultation deadline.

There are a number of ways you can get involved.

  1. If you agree with our demands, sign our consultation response here! If you are a policy nerd, you can fill in a more detailed response here. EPTAG have a handy guide to completing the consultation which should be useful.

  2. Get involved with the campaign! Hold a stall and collect as many consultation responses as you can. Get in touch with the Living Rent Campaign here.

  3. Drop us a few pounds on Indigogo, all money raised will go directly towards the campaign.

It goes without saying you should like us on Facebook and share our posts and tweets!

We may not have independence, but the Scottish Government has always had control over housing policy. It is time for them to put their money where their mouth is and take decisive action on housing, putting people before property and the lives of tenants before the profits of landlords.