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Does the Scottish Government approach to the private landlord sector work?

McVey and Murricane act for many clients who are active in the private rented sector. These clients vary from individuals who may have one or two "buy to lets" to large organisations with hundreds of properties at any one time.

There is a real misunderstanding within the popular press and social media about the approach of the vast majority of private landlords. As with most other issues in the United Kingdom, it is probably confused by the size, scope and variation of the market within the London and South East market.

Most private landlords in Scotland prize continuity of tenancy and providing decent accommodation; they are far from the Rachmanesque slum landlord seeking exorbitant rents for poor quality accommodation. The representation within talkshows and press of "Generation Rent" is not as meaningful in Scotland where quality accommodation in places such as East Kilbride can still be bought at attractive prices.

Nevertheless, many of the stipulations and conditions which have been imposed by the Scottish Government on private landlords are generally to be welcomed. A standards-based approach is generally the most effective in raising quality and ensuring that those who do not want to follow the law are exposed and, wherever necessary, put out of business.

However, there are a couple of substantial provisos to this argument. There is no point in introducing ever greater standards for private landlords if the existing standards are not enforced sufficiently. As suggested above, most private landlords will apply the statutory standards and already be attaining many of these standards without the statutory imposition.

However, is there sufficient activity in weeding out those who do not comply with the standards?. A standards based system which receives the willing support of those keen to promote a high quality private rented sector but which is not enforced on the minority who flout the standards will quickly lose the support of the willing majority. As with everything else in life if the playing field is not even then perceived injustices are felt.

In addition, there is a tendency for lawmakers to constantly add to the standards rather than ensure that the existing standards are being uniformly enforced throughout the industry. Potentially the issue is all about money. It is much easier to bring in new standards demonstrating the virility of the political class than allocate the funds or the organisation to ensure that the whole process works properly.

Materiality is a major issue. Landlords who do not provide safe and proper properties should be the focus. Whistleblowing by tenants should be promoted but nothing is more effective than active supervision and review.

The removal of areas which were most likely to be abused such as repairs deposits and additional charges can only have been a good thing. It promotes the importance of quality tenants and quality landlords.

Such relationships between providers and those receiving the service is not uncommon in the commercial world. Organisations such as Amazon and many online sellers depend upon the feedback given by users. Equally online sellers are able to rate users of their services where appropriate.

The promotion of an open environment where both landlords and tenants can be rated is surely a welcome addition to the creation of a transparent and standards-based private rented sector.

McVey and Murricane specialise in providing advice to private sector landlords. Please contact Allan Radlow for more information.

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