Scotland’s first national union for tenants living in the private rented sector has been launched.
Living Rent will provide support for renters and campaign for better housing in Scotland with the union counter-balancing landlords’ industry bodies that have been dominating the housing debate.
The body aims to represent private rented sector tenants in a housing market that has seen rapid decrease in house ownership and socially rented housing.
Some 14% of Scots now turn to the private sector to find a home, but struggle with unaffordable rent levels, insecurity and poor housing conditions.
The union has been endorsed by journalist Lesley Riddoch and housing expert Professor Douglas Robertson while Andy Wightman MSP has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament to congratulate Living Rent on its launch.
A strong democratic tenants’ body is critical to ensuring confidence – Douglas Robertson
Membership starts at £3 per month and is available to everyone renting their home, whether in the private or state sector. Dues will be used to campaign locally and nationally, as well as going towards a hardship fund for members.
Liz ELy, acting chair of Living Rent, said: “Right now, too many landlords can get away with charging rip off rents for poor quality housing, and tenants are paying the price.
“The private rented sector is regulated like it’s just another business venture, but the reality is that hundreds and thousands of Scots rely on private landlords to keep a roof over their heads. We need real rent controls, proper regulations and representation for tenants.”
Living Rent follows in the footsteps of established tenants unions in European countries like Sweden, where tenants’ membership organisations represent thousands of renters’ interests in national policy making as well as individual housing dispute.
Douglas Robertson, professor of housing at the University of Stirling and member of the Scottish Government Private Rented Sector Strategy Group, added: “In all tenancy matters a strong and vigorous private tenants association – as is common throughout Europe, given the higher proportion of such rented properties – is a critical component.
“Having tenancy rights defined in law is all well and good, but they can only function if people have the confidence to use them. A strong democratic tenants’ body is critical to ensuring such confidence.”