MSPs urged to amend proposals

Landlords call for ‘student tenancy’ in housing bill

To letMSPs are being urged to introduce a “student tenancy” to a key housing bill on the back of further evidence that proposed changes will impact adversely on those requiring set rental periods.

Students in Scotland have roundly rejected one of the principal tenets of the Scottish Government’s Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill as unworkable and failing to recognise their specific needs and interests.

A clear majority of students polled in a survey wanted tenancy arrangements that matched the 9-10 month academic year.

Such tenancies would be abolished under the government’s new plans for a single, open-ended contract.

A large proportion of students (54%) responding would prefer to keep the current fixed term tenancies, with the possible option to renew in discussion with landlord, while 64% felt keeping rental costs down by vacating a property during the summer months was important.

More than 90% said that being able to secure accommodation for the next academic year as early as possible was important. The open-ended tenancies proposed in the Bill would also make this very difficult as the new system precludes landlords from advertising properties until a tenant has agreed to leave.

The survey was commissioned to help inform MSPs as they consider amendments to the Bill by private rented sector campaign group PRS4Scotland, which is now calling for a specific ‘student tenancy’.

The results back up earlier concerns as the bill was going through parliament that the changes would affect both landlords those requiring short-term tenancies. Some landlords in Edinburgh currently let student accommodation to festival goers during the summer months.

Dan Cookson for PRS4Scotland said: “This survey focused solely on the needs of tenants and the findings would indicate that a single open-ended Private Residential Tenancy, while meeting the needs of many, would fail to meet the needs of students.

“On top of that, a large majority of tenants across all types of tenancy who responded to the survey wanted to retain flexibility, which would be lost under the current government proposals.

“These detailed research findings show that, while clearly well-intentioned, the government’s one-size-fits-all approach to tenancies will cause huge problems for tenants and landlords alike.

“The government suggests the market will simply ‘adjust’ to these and other issues raised. Its business impact assessment acknowledges that this will be bad for landlords, but this is clear evidence that some tenant groups, like students, will struggle with the changes too. We would urge the government to make available their assessments of the adjustments that are likely to occur, including estimates of increases or decreases in supply and rental costs.

“MSPs must now consider proposals for a ‘student tenancy’ that gives students what they want: all of the same rights as other PRS tenants under the Bill while retaining the flexibility needed to make the student housing market work effectively.”

The survey was commissioned in response to questions on the Bill’s impact on students and other tenant groups by MSPs on the Holyrood Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee during hearings before Christmas.

One student, Patrick Russell, 22, from Inverness, is studying at Edinburgh University asnd living in rented accommodation on London Street. He currently has a 12 month contract, but his preference is for a 10 month tenancy enjoyed by other undergraduates.

He said: “I don’t need the flat for 12 months of the year and many of my friends have leases that run from September to May which puts them in a far better position financially. There is no need for the length of my lease to extend beyond my academic term, if it does I just waste money on rent when I know that if I had a shorter lease my landlord would be able to rent the property for the festival.”


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