First Minister questioned on high rents at #FMQs as new data reveals Edinburgh is a landlords paradise

New research by Totally Money shows Edinburgh is one of the best places in the UK at the moment to be a buy-to-let landlord

FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon faced questions about what she would do about rent rises in Edinburgh at First Minister’s Questions today [21 June], as an SNP MSP highlighted new data showing Edinburgh is one of the best places in the UK to be a buy-to-let landlord.

A buy-to-let index published earlier this week by comparison site Totally Money revealed Edinburgh was the fourth best city in the UK to be a buy-to-let landlord, with the margin between the mortgage cost and rent cost securing returns of over 10 per cent in the area around Holyrood Park, while Dalry, Merchiston, Gorgie and Sighthill secured yields for landlords of 8 per cent on average, and Corstorphine closely behind on 7.9 per cent.

SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald asked the First Minister: “In my constituency of Edinburgh Pentlands, private rented properties are being offered for up to £800 on a two bedroom flat and £1900 on a three bed house.

What is the First Minister’s reaction to recent news that Edinburgh’s private rent levels, including the Sighthill area of my constituency, has some of the highest per centage yields in Scotland, and what is being done to assist tenants struggling to meet ever increasing rent demands?”

READ MORE – Revealed: ‘Unreasonable’ red tape on rent caps could see 3 year delay on applications

 

Sturgeon responded by stating that the Scottish Government legislated last year against “sudden or excessive rent increases”, and that councils now have the power to apply for a rent cap in areas where rents are rising fast.

The First Minister stated: “The new Private Residential Tenancy, that the Scottish Government introduced last year, protects tenants against sudden or excessive rent increases.

“Under the new tenancy private sector landlords can only increase rents once every 12 months and are required to give tenants three months’ notice of that. Tenants can also challenge any rent increases they consider unfair by referring it for adjudication by a rent officer.

“In addition, all local authorities can now apply to Ministers to cap rent increases, by designating areas of particularly high rent increases as rent pressure zones.

“The Scottish Government has recently discussed with Edinburgh City Council the evidence the council would need to provide in seeking such a designation.”

CommonSpace reported on Monday [18 June] on a report by Shelter Scotland which said it could take up to three years for a council to collect the necessary data for a rent pressure zone (RPZ), and that they would have to find the money themselves to do the data gathering for what was a “speculative endeavour”, something the report said was a “very big ask” for cash-strapped local authorities.

"It would be disingenuous to characterise this measure as rent control as it is commonly perceived,” Douglas Robertson and Gillian Young, the authors’ of the report, concluded. “The ability to secure a RPZ declaration is perhaps in stark contrast with the ambitions set for it by Living Rent."

Scottish Greens Edinburgh City Council housing spokesperson told CommonSpace that the Scottish Government’s position of making individual councils collect the data was wrong headed and would take far too long.

“If we leave it to councils it will take a long time as we’ll be starting from scratch and there will be lots of complications between the councils. If it is centralised through the Scottish Government, who have the resources already to collect data on private rents, it can get done quickly,” Cllr Susan Rae said.

Rents in the private sector rose by one-third from 2010-2017 in Edinburgh, according to Scottish Government statistics, a rise that was only matched in Scotland by Glasgow.

Craig Paterson, spokesperson for Living Rent, responded to Sturgeon’s comment at FMQ’s by stating that while her remarks sound good “rents are going only one way, and that’s up”.

"The new laws introduced, while welcome, do not go far enough,” Paterson said. “They may limit increases to once a year but they don't offer a freeze, they don't stop profiteering landlords from increasing the prices between tenancies. Prices are out of control – the only winners are property speculators, the only losers are tenants.

“The Rent Pressure Zones are an untested piece of legislation with unclear language and only limit increases to CPI +1 per cent. At the moment that would mean the minimum rent rises would be set at in an RPZ is 3.7 per cent. That's a 3.7 per cent increase in rent for tenants. That's just below the the average rent rise for Scotland at 4.4 per cent.

“It all sounds good but the reality for hard pressed tenants is their rents are going only one way, and that's up. We continue our call for real controls to protect Scotland's one million households who rent."

Picture courtesy of First Minister of Scotland