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Warning proposed tenant eviction laws could cut homes available for rent

There are warnings the number of homes for rent could be affected (Andrew Milligan/PA)
There are warnings the number of homes for rent could be affected (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Housing organisations have urged MSPs to think again before making new laws on tenant evictions, warning it could cut the number of homes available for rent.

On Tuesday the Scottish Parliament will debate the final stage of the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) Bill which includes plans to make emergency powers granted to the Scottish Government during the pandemic permanent.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a moratorium on tenant evictions, except in special circumstances approved by a tribunal.

Housing organisations said the Bill seeks to make this change permanent, with a tribunal asked to rule on every instance where a landlord has legitimate reasons for ending a tenancy, including non-payment of rent.

They warned that landlords will be scared they may not be able to regain their property and that up to one in five landlords could withdraw from the market as a result.

John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said: “We are appealing to our parliamentarians to think again over these proposals.

“There is a tried and tested eviction process which already works well and protects tenants and landlords.

“There is a very real danger that if this goes ahead landlords will lose confidence and simply sell homes at a time when they are in great need.”

The Scottish Association of Landlords, the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates warned that although the proposals are intended to offer greater protection to a very small number of tenants facing eviction, they will backfire on a far greater number of people looking to rent homes at a time when homes are in short supply.

Sarah Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, whose members rent around 3,000 homes in rural Scotland, said: “This is a prime example where the consequences have not been thought through.

“Whether you are a landlord with a single buy to let flat or someone with multiple properties, the prospect of not being able to regain possession of the home you own scares landlords, driving them from the sector and reducing availability of homes for tenants.

“The Scottish Parliament should take a step back and look at this again in further detail.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Over the last 20 years, there have been a range of necessary changes to the private rented sector aimed at improving quality and accountability, and, although stakeholders have often warned that such changes would lead to a reduction in supply of private rented homes, the private rented sector has more than doubled over that time.

“Our policies continue to seek improvements in the sector to ensure tenants are treated fairly and can access good-quality properties, and we will continue to seek views.

“Good landlords recognise the case for keeping tenants in their homes where possible, so adding a final check from the tribunal will support responsible management, recognise financial and other pressures that tenants can face and help prevent homelessness.

“Since 2007, we have delivered 111,750 affordable homes, with over 78,000 for social rent, and have now started towards our new ambitious target of 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which at least 70% will be available for social rent and 10% will be in our remote, rural and island communities.”