Landlords say new rental laws are a threat to Edinburgh festivals

EDINBURGH’S festivals are under threat because of changes to the laws on tenancies in Scotland, according to the National Landlords Association.

The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 took effect in December and is the most significant change in private renting in Scotland for almost 30 years.

The law introduced the new Private Residential Tenancy (PRT), which replaces Short Assured and Assured Tenancies, with the underlying principle of the new PRT being that when a landlord rents out their property to a tenant it becomes the tenant’s home, over which they must have security.

The National Landlords Association (NLA) say that rental property sales have outstripped purchases five-fold over past three months and this means that this year’s festival could be the last to offer a variety of talent as artists struggle to find short-term accommodation.

Findings from the NLA show that almost a quarter – 24% – of landlords with property in Scotland have sold over the last three months, with just 5% having bought in the same period.

The data relates to property transactions between April and June this year, four months after the PRT was introduced in December 2017.

The Scottish Government says the reforms provide security, stability and predictability for tenants, as well as appropriate safeguards for landlords, lenders and investors.

But now the NLA is warning that the news, which comes during festival season in Edinburgh, could affect up to 45,000 landlords or approximately 67,000 rental properties.

Richard Lambert, NLA chief executive said: “The Scottish Private Residential Tenancy system removes the flexibility of the sector to meet the varied needs of an ever-changing population of renters, in particular students and those who only seek short term tenancies, such as during the Edinburgh Festival.

“Because student landlords now have to provide indefinite tenancies, they won’t be able to advertise their properties for the festival, as they won’t know for certain if they will be free and available by the end of July.

“If this sets a trend, and artists struggle to find short-term accommodation, the 2018 Edinburgh Festival could be the last to offer such a variety of talent”.

The NLA says that the level of divestment in rented property is a concern for the Scottish Government, and has urged the UK Parliament to pay close attention as it currently consults on similar proposals for rental reforms in England and Wales.

Scottish Housing Minister Kevin Stewart defended the new laws saying: “The private rental sector has grown substantially in recent years with over 770,000 people now calling it home. It includes a large number of tenants looking to settle for the longer term and seeking the flexibility the sector has always provided.

“The Private Housing (Tenancies) Act introduced measures to bring stability and security and benefits for tenants and landlords in the modern day private rental sector.

“It is more streamlined with modern open-ended tenancies where landlords cannot evict tenants simply because their agreement has reached its end date, while rents can only be increased once in a 12 month period, and then only with three months’ advance notice.”