A “serious shortage of accommodation to rent” will worsen as landlords opt to sell due to the Scottish government’s “anti-landlord rhetoric”, an industry expert has warned.
Scottish Homeowners Association chief executive John Blackwood said the growing housing crisis was not being taken “seriously enough”.
He said landlords are choosing to sell their properties and “get out of the industry altogether” leaving fewer properties to rent in an already stressed market.
It comes amid worrying reports of renters being unable to secure a property and listings being completed within two hours of posting.
“The biggest problem we’ve had over the last year or so in particular, around 18 months, has been anti-landlord rhetoric from the Scottish government,” Blackwood said.
“We have seen a big change where they are not interested in participating in the sector or supporting the owners and letting the agents allow them to continue to invest in the sector and provide much needed housing.
“As a result of all that, many owners have just decided that investing in Scotland is no longer an attractive option for them and are choosing to sell their rented accommodation and invest elsewhere.”
A government spokesman insisted that “regulation to improve quality and accountability is not at odds with increasing supply.”
In an effort to help those struggling with rising costs of living, the Scottish Government has announced a rent freeze and ban on evictions until spring.
Read the first part of our series on the rental crisis: Airbnb scammer swindles desperate tenants out of deposits amid rental market concerns
However, the rent freeze only helps those who have already secured a property, while those trying to find a new flat have struggled to outpace demand.
Blackwood said the industry was not sufficiently consulted on the rent freeze. He said: “Our concern is, of course, the cost of living crisis that we are all experiencing affects both landlords and renters.
“We have to work together as landlords with our tenants to try to mitigate the impact of rising costs.”
Landlords selling their properties means the competitive market for prospective tenants is unlikely to improve as accommodation supply dwindles, the industry chief said.
And it’s having a knock-on effect on other businesses, revealed the chairman of a global relocation management company, Locators Scotland.
Bob Stocker previously told The Herald that the housing crisis could discourage skilled workers from traveling to Scotland.
“If it’s not feasible for the owner, they’ll just go off the market and I know that’s happening,” he said. “I know a leasing agent who was in the business for many years and left because the owners were moving.
“That is the key to the problem, the landlords are unhappy with the conditions in which they have to work.
“They are not greedy, unscrupulous individuals. Many are people who are abroad for a period and all they want to do is keep their home here to come back.”
Rental agents and landlords are being “inundated” with requests for properties as soon as they are listed.
Speaking about the staggering demand for any newly announced long-term rental, Blackwood said: “What does that tell us? There is not enough housing and renters are struggling to find a home. Whether they are students or non-students, it is pervasive throughout Scotland.”
He stated that the flats are occupied in two hours and added: “Our members cannot manage the volume of calls they receive from prospective tenants.
“They are really struggling to keep up with the demand, that comes through loud and clear from our members”
“We have been speaking to the Scottish Government for the last few years, stating that there is a severe shortage of accommodation to rent,” Mr Blackwood added.
“That is both in the social rental sector and in the private rental sector.
“Year after year, we see the problem getting worse, to the point where we now have a situation where students are struggling to find a home, which we warned about in 2017.
“Of course, with more and more landlords choosing to leave the sector, that is putting additional pressure on the few properties that are available to rent and tenants are struggling.
“In our view, we don’t think the Scottish Government takes it seriously enough and understands the real extent of the housing crisis we are experiencing at the moment, and they need to take urgent action to tackle that.” .”
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The CEO said the long-term solution is investment in the sector, adding: “We need to increase supply and the Scottish Government needs to work with landlords to encourage them to stay in the sector and encourage them to invest to provide more homes for them to rents in general will go down.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “These are exceptional measures developed to reflect a rapidly worsening cost of living crisis. If approved by the Scottish Parliament, they will increase tenants’ protection against eviction and rent increases. They are also temporary and our intention is that they will initially apply until March of next year. We will keep its impact on the broader real estate market under review during that time.
“Since 1999, the number of homes privately rented to households in Scotland has increased from 120,000 to 340,000, at a time when a series of new regulations have been introduced. Regulation to improve quality and accountability is not at odds with increasing supply. We are aware of the importance of the private rental sector and regularly meet with stakeholders, including landlord representatives, leasing agents and tenant groups. We welcome your contribution to improving quality and access to housing in Scotland.”
“Scotland is also ahead of the rest of the UK in providing affordable housing, having delivered almost 112,000 affordable homes since 2007, of which more than 78,000 were social rentals. We have now started to deliver on our commitment of 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which at least 70% will be available for social rental.”